Kenya coffee is quite a bit different at least in the way the Kenyans conduct their coffee business. Most coffee producers in other countries grow their crops and take them to market to sell.
You may be familiar with Kenyan coffee from your local coffee shop or coffee roaster. They are high quality and totally worth trying. But don’t skimp on the price! Otherwise you may be disappointed by the blend.
That’s how many of the African coffee blends find their way to your coffee cup.
The Kenyan Coffee Auctions
In Kenya, lots are auctioned off to the highest bidder and sometimes the prices can be driven quite high! They can demand high prices because they are sticklers for quality control and their farmers are very precise in their agricultural methods.
Coffee from Kenya is a very bright coffee. This is, it is acidic enough to affect your entire palate. The coffee has wonderful fruity flavors, sometimes with a touch of spice. Some coffees are wine-like or fruity and some are bright and clean. Kenya’s rich volcanic soil and high mountains of East Africa give its coffee a flavor you can find nowhere else in the world.
Kenya coffee is graded according to strict standards. The grades are important because they indicate the size of the bean; a larger bean will have more of the oils that give coffee its flavor and aroma. Therefore, the highest grades are the largest and most delicious beans. From largest to smallest the grades are AA, AB, PB, C, E, TT and T.
Size is not the only factor used in grading coffee, however. The Kenya Coffee Board also sorts it according to classes based on the quality of the beans. It begins with 1 for the highest quality and goes to 10 for the lowest. You probably won’t see this number on your package of beans but if you can buy from a retailer that knows the quality grade it is to your taste advantage to do so!
Because of these two rating systems, you could buy Kenya AA beans but get a poor batch because it was rated a 4 on the quality scale.
Research and Development
Kenya engages in a lot of research and development in an effort to produce the best coffee in the world. One of their discoveries has been Ruiru 11, a hybrid coffee that is resistant to disease.
It was considered a breakthrough when first discovered but the Coffee Board’s promotion of it has been marred by rumors of its inferior flavor characteristics. It remains to be seen whether Ruiru can live up to Kenya’s stringent standards for its coffee products.
Prices of Kenyan Coffee
Coffee from Kenya, like that of many other countries, has price swings according to the country’s weather and political occurrences. In 2006, for example, there was a big shakeup in the local Coffee Board who had some members who were not making sure that financial incentives made it to the farmers.
In 2008 there was a drought whose intermittent rains forced the coffee plants to bloom at inappropriate times and subsequently most of the crop was lost. There are many circumstances that affect both the quality and the price of Kenya coffee.
Still worth it!
Nevertheless, Kenyan coffee is a good buy at any price. That kind of flavor is well worth paying extra for if one has to!
Reader Query #1 (Updated 5/16)
“I’m looking for reasonably priced Keyan coffee, but where?”
by Myong from USA
“I am looking for reasonably priced Kenyan coffee. Could you help me to find one or more sources to get the delicious coffee. Costco don’t carry any more.”
Thank you for your query, Myong, to PurelyCoffeeBeans.com in which you wrote that you were missing a discontinued line of coffee beans from Costco Wholesale.
I have the same problem with Costco as more & more customer buy those (wretched) one cup systems, Costco’s range of coffee beans grows ever smaller. I can’t find some that I used to love. Pity.
The other odd thing about your email was that I bought some lovely Kenyan AA a couple of weeks ago, freshly roasted from an Artisan roaster here. They weren’t particularly cheap, but well worth the price, I feel. I’ve also enjoyed some nice Kenyan from Gloria Jeans Coffee (pictured above).
But I’ve never seen any in Costco, I’m sure I’d have bought it by now, but I do know product ranges differ from region to region, store to store, and season to season.
If you would like, check out my links to Amazon.com, who have a decent range of coffee beans generally.