Altitude Range: 1400- 2000+ meters
Language Spoken: Swahili and English
Harvest: Main crop: October- December / Fly Crop: April – June
Annual Coffee Production: 800,000 – 1,000,000 bags or 100 million to 135 million lbs.
Common Varieties: SL28, SL34, K7, Ruiru 11, Batian
Avg Farm Size: 50% of production is from “small holders” with 1-14 hectares, and 50% is from estates with more than 15 hectares. These small holders are grouped into cooperative societies and deliver to a centralized wet mill operated by the coop. The coffee is then sold under the name of the washing station and/or cooperative society.
General Cup Profile
Kenyan coffee is known internally as the supermodel of coffee: Everything about it seems to be more refined, more intense, and bigger. Generally we see black currant, intense citric acidity expressed as grapefruit, and phosphoric acidity contributing to the “sparking” quality of the acidity, along with very sweet and very creamy cups. The fascinating part of the discovery of the Kenyan profile happens when varieties can be isolated. For instance, we find those black-currant bombs in SL-28, and rich creamy lemon more in French Mission. Some of the new rust-resistant varieties, like Ruiru 11 and Batian, can add new, sometimes undesirable flavors, but Batian (which is very new and not yet harvested on a large scale) was created to address the need of a rust-resistant and delicious coffee.
Bungoma, Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Machakos, Meru, Mt. Elgon, Murang’a, Nakuru, Nyeri, Thika, Taita Taveta, Tran-Nzoia
Kenya has very unique processing techniques which contribute greatly to the quality of the cup. Kenya uses a “double fermentation” process, in which the beans soak in fermentation tanks twice (12–24 hours each time). In between those soaks, the beans are flushed with water to clean off any excess organic material. After the second fermentation, the beans travel through a water channel which not only separates the densities, but also allows for another good scrub of the coffee before it’s dried. Density separation happens when less-dense beans, or “floaters,” are taken out of the channel, leaving only the highest-density coffee. After the water-channel journey is complete, the beans go for another bath in a water tank for a final soaking for up to 24 hours. This last soak is said to strengthen the amino acids and proteins in the bean.
The water is drained, and then the beans are then taken to a “pre-dry,” or “skin dry,” which is a fast full-sunlight dry on raised beds for about six hours with low bean depth, which is meant to help the parchment from cracking. After the pre-dry, the beans are then taken to large raised beds and stacked with a thicker bean depth, where they will dry for 7–14 days depending on conditions.
Kenyan producers dry their coffee down to 11–12% moisture.
This system is definitely an expensive and resource- and labor-intensive way to process coffee. However, Kenyan coffee is some of the cleanest, most intense, longest-lasting coffee in the world, and we definitely have this meticulous processing to thank, in addition to the origin’s favorable altitude and varieties.