Kenya, one of the world’s great coffee origins

Although there is some doubt as to who first brought coffee to Kenya, there is no doubt that it was the British who turned it into an export industry circa 1900 on the back of their considerable expertise in tea.

After independence from the British the Kenyan’s structured their industry in what turned out to be quite a visionary way. They established a research centre making use of the most advanced techniques in fruit removal and drying, developed efficiently run cooperatives of small holders, and organised their export industry around an open auction.    

Kenya Coffee is traded once a week at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. It is based at The Wakulima house, Exchange Lane which is off Haile Selassie Avenue. Bizarrely although the coffee is packed in single sisal bags of 60 kg, bids are made per 50 kg bag.

Another quirk about Kenya coffee is its classification. Kenya AA is actually a classification of coffee grown in Kenya and is not a determination of quality. All Kenyan coffee is graded after it is milled. Grades are assigned based on the screen size of the bean. Beans with a screen size of 17 or 18 (17/64 or 18/64 of an inch) are assigned the grade AA, generally the largest bean, this moves to AB and C as the screen is reduced in size.

In an age of sexy new origins, new varietals and different processing techniques Kenya coffee has lost some of its luster. However it’s worth remembering that back in 2007 James Hoffman won the World Barista Championships using Kenya coffee from the Gethumwini estate as a base for his cappuccino drink. Clearly the judges at the time were wowed by this great coffee.

We stock Kenya Acacia AA which has a light sweet aroma with full grapefruit and red currant notes which you can purchase here. It comes from the Kirinyaga district in the southern part of Mount Kenya and is a co-operative coffee grown at an altitude of between 1700-1800m. It is a wash process coffee which delivers a very clean cup.

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