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Kenya Coffee: The Acidic and Bright Brew of Your Dreams

Kenya coffee: black man drinking a cup of java

When it comes to the best coffee, some of the top quality options hail from the high-elevations of Africa. Looking for coffee that has a wine-like acidity along with bright floral and berry notes? Look no further than Kenya coffee. These coffees are grown thousands of meters above sea level, drawing up nutrients from volcanic soil to create a flavor that’s truly unparalleled. With each sip, you’ll be transported to coffee plantations along the slopes of Mt. Kenya where some of the most decadent coffee is cultivated.

Here, we’ll show you everything there is to know about coffees from Kenya. You’ll learn about the different producing regions including the country’s focus on high-altitude plantations. Plus, you’ll discover varietals so you can pick the best one for your taste preferences. We’ll also go over the main characteristics of Kenyan coffees and highlight why this region produces some of the best coffee you’ll ever taste.

Kenya Coffee: Producing Regions

Kenya Mt. Elgon

Like many coffee-producing nations, Kenya coffee is unique in its own right. The special nature of Kenyan coffee comes from the way it’s produced, harvested, roasted, and its flavor profile. Learn more about the growing regions, varietals, and what makes this type of coffee stand out.

Production Basics

Kenya coffee is grown mainly in volcanic soils around Mt. Kenya and the foothills below the Aberdare Range. This coffee-growing region reaches all the way down to the northern edges of Nairobi. The second-largest producing region is located near the border of Uganda on the slopes and hills of Mt. Elgon. Counties in northern Kenya that are home to coffee to coffee production include Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, and Muranga. On the eastern side, coffee counties include Bungoma, Vihiga, and Kakamega.

The country has a combination of small farms, coops, and larger coffee companies within the coffee industry. Most coffee plantations are home to 50 to 500 coffee trees producing stunning acidic coffees. This is on the smaller end when it comes to African coffee growers — small farms in South Africa have thousands of trees.

Harvesting and Grading

The coffee beans flower in March and April and the coffee cherries ripen from may to December. After harvesting, the beans are sent for milling and grading. Some producers use mechanical grading methods while others use electronic grading. The beans are rated based on bean size, weight, shape, and color. 

Farmers grow Kenya coffee AA beans at elevations 6,600 feet or higher above sea level. Kenya AA coffees are considered to be among the best gourmet coffees in the world. When it comes to ranking, the highest quality beans earn a one rating while the lower quality beans earn a 10 rating on a sliding scale. Kenyan coffee beans ranked with high quality are among the most consistently available in the world.

High-Altitude

Kenya green coffee is produced exclusively at high altitude. This is typically between 1,400 and 2,000 meters above sea level. Since there are no low elevation coffees from the country, Kenyan coffee beans have Strictly High Grown (SHB) and Strictly Hard bean (SHB) status. This status is one component of grading whole bean coffee. Beans with this label tend to be high-quality coffees with nuanced flavor profiles and better nutrient composition. That’s because beans at higher altitudes tend to grow more slowly.

Varietals

All coffees in the world use the same four coffee beans — though arabica beans and robusta beans are the most common. The difference in flavor comes from how and where producers cultivate the beans. Kenyan coffee comes in five different varietals that are distinct to East African nations. This includes SL 28, SL 34, K7, Ruiru 11, and Batian. SL 28 is grown at medium to high elevations. SL 34 is similar, but it requires more rain than SL 28. 

K7 is a newer varietal developed to be more disease and climate resistant. It tends to have a lower quality flavor profile, but it’s also easier for coffee farmers to produce. In response, coffee producers created Ruiru 11 and Batian. These two varietals are disease-resistant and deliver incredible flavor in each cup.

What Does Kenyan Coffee Taste Like?

Black women sorting coffee cherries

Kenyan coffee is known for its wine-like acidity and bright tasting notes. These coffees have sweet and fruity flavors with undertones of berries and floral notes. Coffee drinkers will enjoy notes of black currant and citrus hints — like some Latin American coffees. Kenya coffee has a robust flavor profile with layered tasting notes including a winey aftertaste and full body. The acidic aftertaste is often compared to coffees from Ethiopia.

The flavor of Kenyan coffee varies depending on how it is grown and roasted. Kenya Peaberry coffee from Volcanica is one of the top choices and a great way to introduce your taste buds to this coffee growing nation. 

There are several roasts, blends, as well as single origin brews. Producers commonly make blends with bright Ethiopian coffees for an exquisite cup of coffee. Light roasts tend to have layered tasting profiles while dark roasts focus on one tasting note. Medium roasts have rounded tasting profiles with lower acidity and a richer body. There are a variety of fair trade coffees as well as organic options as well.

Explore the World of African Coffees

Kenya cofeee cherries in man's hand

Whether you’re looking for ground coffee from Kenya or whole beans from roasters in South Africa, there’s a cup of java to delight your taste buds. These coffees produce unparalleled flavor thanks to the unique climate, soil composition, and growing methods. Plus, most coffee is grown on smaller farms so you can enjoy delicious flavor while supporting locals and families throughout the country.

Want to learn more about coffee? Head to Cup & Bean. There, you’ll find all kinds of info for coffee beginners as well as aficionados. From recipes for all the classic coffee drinks to guides on how to order beverages and make new spins on old favorites, there’s something for everyone. We also offer coffee country guides so you can learn more about each nation and how their coffees are unique.