Origin — A Guide To Kenyan Coffee – Old Spike
Man spreading specialty coffee cherries on tables to dry in Kenya

Origin — A Guide To Kenyan Coffee

Discover Kenyan Specialty Coffee

In the highlands of East Africa, where the equator cuts through the continent, lies Kenya, a country synonymous with breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and one of the world's most prized treasures – Kenyan specialty coffee. If your taste buds have an adventurous streak and a passion for the rich and complex world of coffee, then Kenya is your promised land. This journal entry will take you on a exploration through the history of specialty coffee in Kenya, introduce you to the kaleidoscope of coffee varieties cultivated here, unveil the popular processing methods, and immerse you in the vibrant coffee culture that flows through the nation's veins.

Landscape of Amboseli National Park in Kenya

The History of Specialty Coffee in Kenya

Nestled against the backdrop of Mount Kenya's peaks and the fertile highlands, the history of specialty coffee in Kenya is a story of dedication and meticulous farming. Coffee cultivation was introduced by British colonists in the late 19th century, and it didn't take long for Kenya to gain recognition for producing some of the finest coffee in the world. The nation's unique combination of high altitudes, volcanic soils, and favourable climates resulted in beans with exquisite flavour profiles. Kenyan coffee's journey to specialty status began when the Kenyan government implemented strict quality control measures, leading to the emergence of the Coffee Research Foundation and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

Hands picking Kenyan coffee cherries


World Renowned Coffee Varieties Grown in Kenya:

Kenyan coffee is a treasure trove of flavours, thanks to its diverse coffee varieties. Here are some of the most distinguished ones:

- SL28 and SL34: These legendary varieties are known for their exceptional cup quality, with flavours ranging from bright citrus to blackcurrant and full-bodied sweetness. They thrive at higher altitudes and are the pride of Kenyan coffee.

- Batian: A newer addition, Batian offers resistance to coffee diseases and pests while maintaining the vibrant acidity and fruity notes Kenyan coffee is famous for.

- Ruiru 11: Developed to combat coffee berry disease, Ruiru 11 showcases balanced acidity and a rich, nutty profile.

These varieties are the building blocks of Kenyan coffee's distinctive character, drawing coffee lovers worldwide to its bold and complex flavours.


Popular Processing Methods in Kenya

The journey from coffee cherry to cup in Kenya involves a blend of traditional and modern processing methods:

- Washed Processing: Known for producing clean, crisp flavours, this method involves removing the cherry's pulp before drying the beans.

- Natural Processing: In this method, beans are dried inside the cherries, imparting fruity and fermented notes that have made Kenyan naturals a favourite among specialty coffee aficionados.

- Honey Processing: This unique method strikes a balance between washed and natural processes, leaving some mucilage on the beans for added sweetness and complexity.

Kenyan coffee cherishes the art of processing, offering an array of flavors and textures that cater to the diverse preferences of coffee lovers.

Black and white photo of a Kenyan woman in a headscarf laughing

Coffee Culture in Kenya

In Kenya, coffee culture runs deep, blending tradition with a dash of modernity:

- The Chai Culture: Chai (tea) might be the first beverage that comes to mind in Kenya, but coffee has its own place. "Kahawa" (coffee) is often brewed strong and served alongside freshly roasted nuts, bringing communities together.

- The Auction System: Kenya's coffee industry relies on a unique auction system that ensures transparency and fair prices for coffee producers. Auctions are held weekly, with beans meticulously graded for quality.

- Sustainability Initiatives: Kenya is making strides in sustainable coffee production, with a focus on environmentally friendly practices and fair wages for coffee farmers.

Old Spike Kenyan specialty coffee Lamu Youth Project

Closing Thoughts

Kenyan coffee is more than just a beverage; it's a journey through history, a celebration of diversity, and a testament to the dedication of its farmers. As you sip your cup of Kenyan specialty coffee, know that you're not just enjoying a beverage; you're savouring the essence of a nation, its landscapes, and its people.

Kenyan Coffee from Old Spike

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