Kenya Coffee Bean: Unique Flavor from Volcanic Landscape

The Kenya coffee industry is one of the better regulated in the world and has consistently high standards. It produces some of the worlds finest, best tasting and sought after coffee.

The Kenya coffee beans are among one of the best in the world. Ask any coffee drinker which is there favorite single origin, many will say Kenya and it’s not hard to see why.

Kenya has a lot on it’s side when it comes to growing and producing some of the world’s finest coffee, the near perfect climate and the deep well drained volcanic soil obviously helps but growing this elite coffee bean isn’t all down to luck and so much goes on behind the scenes including the country’s advanced research facilities which keeps the Kenya coffee flowing.

The Kenya coffee bean holds a strong position near the top of the gourmet ladder meaning it is readily available all over the world.

Kenya has a transparent auction system. Having this system means that a bag of Kenya coffee beans can be traced to the source, this forces the coffee farmers to continually produce the highest quality beans but in turn makes this single-origin Kenyan coffee bean one of the most expensive globally.

History of Kenya Coffee Bean

Coffee was originally introduced to Kenya in the late 1800s when the British colonized Kenya and white settlers were ordered to grow crops and use the Africans as free or very cheap labour. 

After the Mau Mau war some Africans were allowed to grow their own coffee crops but stringent controls were placed over the amount of plants an individual could grow. Tight government controls remained in place until around 15 years ago and now coffee growers are given free rein to grown their crops however they want to without being penalized.

Today people grow coffee in volcanic, well-drained soils and at high elevations. It is the 16th largest producer in the world with annual yields of 100 million tonnes.

Until 1923 Kenya coffee beans were only produced in areas inhabited by European settlers. It then went on to spread to other regions of the country.

The Kenya coffee industry is vast and employs directly and indirectly approximately 6 million people including 150,000 coffee farmers. Small-scale farmers make up two-thirds of coffee production in Kenya with large plantations accounting for the rest.

Even Kenya coffee is one of the most expensive on the planet, Kenyan coffee farmers are still among the poorest in the world.

Unfortunately, due to a property boom in cultivation areas production of coffee is in a state of decline.

Approximately 95% of Kenya coffee beans are exported. The majority of Kenyans surprisingly prefer to drink tea.

It has been suggested that the Kenya coffee bean is brewed a little stronger and also ground a little finer than is standard for coffee but they are considered to be the best for making cold brew coffee. Cold brewing is as simple as steeping the ground coffee in cold water for 18 to 24 hours.

Even though Kenya mostly grows Arabica coffee beans due to high elevation areas, there is also a small production of Robusta coffee growing in the low altitude areas but not every coffee bean is the same. Naturally, Kenya coffee beans grow at different sizes and a system is used to classify each bean according to size.

Most of the coffee that is produced in Kenya is mostly from the SL varieties, SL28 and SL34. It is estimated that this makes up almost 80% of the total coffee produced. This is about 40,000 tons of coffee each year. That is why the flavors of these coffee beans are linked very closely to their area of origin.

Kenya Coffee Bean Tasting Note

The Kenya coffee bean is a medium-bodied coffee bean offering juicy bold flavors.

The Kenya coffee bean has a consistently rich flavor and many coffee experts around the world consider the Kenya coffee bean to have a wine-like acidity with a very pleasant aroma.

Bright in taste with tones of fruit and berries, depending on the variety of coffee bean tones can range from citrus to black currant.

The key to a good Kenya coffee is that it tastes vibrant yet crisp and clean. The coffee should taste very well balanced with it not being too delicate. Lemony citrus notes may well be present in the Kenya coffee bean along with some peppery spices.

Often known as the “connoisseurs cup” Kenya coffee should be appreciated and the amazing fragrant aroma should be enjoyed. Using a wet process also gives Kenya coffee a nice natural sweetness.

The distinctive flavors and black currant undertones make the aroma and flavor of the Kenya coffee bean one of the reasons Kenya coffee is consistently regarded as one of the five best in the entire world.

As with drinking all good coffee, a pleasant aftertaste should be enjoyed and the Kenya coffee bean gives an aftertaste to match the quality of the coffee being enjoyed.

Kenyan coffee gives of an enjoyable wine-like aftertaste with notes of citrus and berries.  It is sometimes compared to Ethiopian Harrar, however, the Kenya coffee offers a richer fuller flavor compared to Ethiopian coffees.

Flavors can vary from region to region and this is down to the unique processing techniques used.

Overall, no matter what region your Kenya coffee has come from you can be rest assured that you would most definitely be drinking some of the finest coffee on the planet.

Kenya Coffee Growing

Kenya coffee beans are grown in volcanic soil at high elevations ranging from 1400 to 2000 meters above sea level.

The beans are grown slowly at high altitudes and this gives the bean enough time to fully develop. The slow growth also allows the coffee bean to become packed with lots of nutrients.

When it comes to growing coffee Kenya has everything going for them including a perfect tropical climate. Consistent year-round temperatures and dispersed rainfall make it the perfect country to grow coffee.

Kenya has many regions growing coffee and each produces a different coffee, simple things like the morning sun as opposed to the evening sun have a big effect on how the chemicals in the coffee cherry develop over time.

Different coffee regions also have varying wildlife and again this has an impact on the coffee being grown.

Current producing areas include Bungoma, Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Achakos, Mount Elgon, Murang’a, Nakuru, Taita Taveta and Tran-Nzoia.

An estimated 150,000 farmers produce coffee and 70% of them are smallholdings employing some six million workers in the industry.

There are only two types of coffee that exist in the world, Arabica and Robusta. Kenya in particular is the most perfect country to grow Arabica coffee, which will do well in the high elevations and the well-drained deep soil.

Kenya Coffee Harvesting

March and April are when the Kenya coffee crops flower. The coffee cherry will ripen from May to July and again in September and October. The majority of Kenyan coffee cherries ripen from October to December.

Processing the beans involves electronic grading by shape, size and weight. This takes place after milling and removes the defect beans.

Beans are processed using the wet method.

The Grades of Kenya Coffee Bean

In 1930 the Kenyan government hired a laboratory to give all coffee a grade of which there are seven. It is given it’s grade depending on size, shape and density. This is done whilst the coffee bean is still green and prior to roasting.

The grades are: Kenya AA screen 17/18, Kenya AB, Kenya PB Peaberry, Kenya C, Kenya E Elephant bean, Kenya TT, Kenya T.

The most sought after is AA and AB and Kenya coffee is given a class ranging from one to ten. One being the worst and ten being the best, this helps to further sort coffee in a grade.

E Grade Coffee Beans

This is the largest of the coffee beans. E graded beans are taken from the coffee cherry otherwise know as the fruit where two coffee seeds are genetically defected and joined together.

Kenya Peaberry Coffee Beans

One single coffee bean as opposed to the usual two beans that we all know. The peaberry bean is larger in size and around 10% of Kenya coffee beans that are grown are peaberry beans.

Kenya AA 

Grown higher at some 6,600 feet above sea level, the Kenya AA is some of the most sought-after and highly rated coffee.

Growing this bean at higher altitudes allows the bean to grow slower, and gives more time to develop into a mature, strong, full-bodied, and rich flavor rather than beans grown at lower altitudes.

The high quality and the fact that it is rated as one of the world’s best coffees comes hand in hand with a higher price and is therefore mostly used as a single origin rather than in blends.

It is given a medium roast. Roasting darker would result in a loss of nuances, and that is why Kenya AA tastes so great.

Fresh roasting is so important to the taste. Stale coffee that has been roasted and allowed to sit for months prior to packaging will not have the best taste and it is important to remember this when buying your coffee from your supplier.

Check the packaging for ‘fresh roasted when packaged’ as this will give you an indication as to the time from roast to packaging. Any reputable supplier will be transparent with this information of their packaging due to the importance of the overall taste.

Kenya AB

Kenya AB is a popular and highly rated coffee however not as highly sought after as AA.

People sort sorted A and B coffee beans using 6.8mm and 6.2mm screens and combine together to make the Kenya AB – a premium coffee.

Kenya C, TT and T

Kenya C coffee beans are thin beans from Kenya B grade. And Kenya TT are light beans separated from AA and AB by air current and Kenya T are smaller fragments than Kenya TT and also separated from Kenya C by air current.

Some deteriorated beans are also used and processed using the dry method and are graded as MH and ML.

Kenya Processing Method

As mentioned above, there are a few methods that can be used to process coffee. However, in Kenya, the process that is often used is called double fermentation. It is really just another type of washing method. Below are the steps involved in this process.

First Fermentation

This first step involves removing the pulp from the beans as they come straight from harvesting. The coated beans will then be taken to fermentation tanks with a small amount of water. The beans are going to be soaked for about 12 to 24 hours, depending on how rapid or slow the fermentation takes place.

This process helps in removing the viscous fluid from the beans. While this is happening, the coffee beans will also develop some fruity flavors from this viscous fluid. This process will continue until the fluid starts to leave the seeds. The beans are then flushed from the fermentation tanks through some water channels to be rinsed. This helps in completely removing the mucilage. This will therefore stop the fermenting process. The seeds that will come out as having low density will be taken off the batch at this stage. This ensures high-quality coffee for the end product.

Second Fermentation

The first step is then repeated for the second step. This will, however, happen in a secondary tank and be left to ferment for an additional 12 to 24 hours. For this fermentation process, the farmers will use ingredients with less sugar and less fruity flavors. The beans will be flashed through the water channels to remove any mucilage that might have remained from the first process.


When the separation has occurred, the beans will then be put into other tanks. This time, instead of using any sweeteners, the main ingredient will be water. The coffee beans will then soak for 24 hours. At this time, the mucilage will have been removed completely. Soaking will help by increasing enzyme activity. This strengthens the proteins and amino acids that are present in the coffee beans.

Drying and Grading

This is the last step in the processing method. After soaking the coffee beans, they will then be taken outside and placed on some raised beds to dry. This process is aimed at drying the coffee beans to remove moisture. The type they take to dry will greatly depend on the temperature and the weather. To achieve better results, the coffee would need to be turned over constantly. After some time, if the moisture drops to about 12 or 11 percent, it’s time to take them out. And, this will conclude the coffee processing method in Kenya. The next step is to brew.


Kenya coffee bean really is one of the best single-origin coffees in the world.

With dedicated research facilities and a strong commitment from both small-scale and large plantations to continually improve the quality of coffee we can all enjoy Kenya coffee for many years to come.

With a coffee shop on every corner, it won’t be overly difficult to get hold of the amazing Kenya coffee, and it will very soon become a favorite of yours no doubt.

Bonus: Why Colombian Coffee Beans Has The Most Unique Flavor

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