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Kenya is a global leader in specialty coffee exports. The combination of a magnificent landscape, climate and technique are the key reasons why Kenya has such a renowned reputation for it’s fantastic, well-balanced and complex coffee.
The History of the Kenyan Coffee Industry
Although Kenya neighbours Ethiopia (where coffee originated), the Kenyan coffee industry didn’t kick off until 1893 where Bourbon beans from Brazil were imported to Bura in Taita Hills. Since coffee at that time wasn’t under government control, farms were mainly run by individuals or small operations who were free to produce and advertise coffee without restriction.
Following the introduction of the British Colonial Government in the 1920s, Kenya’s coffee industry began to become more regulated and controlled. For the first decade, the main change that was established was that coffee farms were permitted to continue on the outskirts of European settled areas, and they were to primarily be run by white settlers with Kenyans to work for free or incredibly cheaply. In the 1930s regulation ramped up even further, with the creation of the Coffee Industry Ordinance in 1932, the Coffee Board in 1933 and the Kenya Coffee Auctions in 1934. These new regulations aimed to create policies and licensing that was enforced through inspections to improve the grading, advertising and sales of coffee.
After the Mau Mau war from 1952-1960 which led to Kenya’s independence in 1963 that some Kenyans were allowed to run coffee farms, however, there were still strict regulations in place. One of these regulations was that they had to sell all of their top graded coffee and weren’t allowed to have it themselves. This regulation meant that the farmers never actually knew just how great their amazing coffee was.
It wasn’t until 2005 that mass reforms began to pave the way for farmer independence from the Government Restrictions. Today Kenyan coffee farmers can grow coffee freely and can consumer; however, much coffee of whatever quality that they wish!
Challenges of the Kenyan Coffee Industry
Like many other countries, Kenya battles coffee plant diseases and pests such as Coffee Leaf Rust. Kenya has been successful in quickly introducing new strains into their coffee to create more robust, resistant varieties.
Climate change is another challenge that is impacting Kenya’s coffee farms. An increase in greenhouse gasses causes a difference in the atmosphere, which then affects the climate of regions which, as a result, impacts coffee production. The main changes in climate that impact Kenyas coffee farms are the amount and distribution of rainfall. Coffee needs rain, but too much can wash away the natural oils in the soil that make the coffee taste great. It also can wash away pesticides used to control coffee rust and other diseases.
Major Coffee Growing Regions
A major coffee-growing region in Kenya is the surrounds of Mt. Kenya and Aberdare Range where the rich volcanic soil and high altitudes on 1400-2000 MASL provide the perfect landscape of successful specialty coffee farms. The mountain area provides a moderate climate with a balanced amount of sunlight and rainfall. These optimal landscapes allow the country to provide consistently top-grade specialty coffee.
Most Common Varieties
Around 90% of coffee in Kenya is Arabica with the most common variety being Bourbon. Bourbon beans tend to have buttery, chocolate flavours with light fruit undertones. Our own Kenyan Ruka Chui, which is Bourbon, has a balanced acidity with a full body and flavours of juicy black currant and red berry.
This Kenyan AB Ruka Chui Single-origin coffee is truly a specialty coffee. We often refer to this bean as a “Blend” because the flavours are so stable in every type of extraction. Whether you have this bean in a plunger, a Chemex, or Latte, the stunning flavours will come through.
Grown by a group of dedicated small-holders, at 1600-2000 meters above sea level, in the cool temperatures and fertile highlands of the Kenyan Nyeri County between the Aberdare Mountain Range and Mt. Kenya. The Kenyan coffee beans deliver sweet, balanced, juicy black currant and red berry. Try it here!