This week, I will be highlighting a coffee-producing country right next door to our previous entry. Kenya consists mostly of vast plains, however, the western highlands are particularly fertile thanks to volcanic soil. This, along with the higher elevations and tropical climate, make it a prime region to grow coffee.
Coffee was first introduced to Kenya in 1893 by French missionaries, with the first harvest being produced in 1896. The missionaries brought a bourbon variety of coffee tree which came to be known as French Mission. In the 1930s, Kenya established a government-run auction system for the sale of coffee lots from farmers to licensed exporters.
Kenya’s coffee industry, in more recent years, has been based around the SL-28 and SL-34 varieties which were two of the forty hybrids produced by Scott Labs. These two varieties in particular are prized by specialty coffee shops and roasters around the world. In recent years, these varieties have grown increasingly susceptible to coffee rust, a fungus that plagues coffee farmers across the globe. Some farmers have attempted to transition to other varieties such as Ruiru 11, however, this variety has received mixed reviews from importers and roasters.
Kenya uses of a grading system that is primarily concerned with the size of the beans produced. The largest rating, AA, is often assumed to indicate the highest quality. Though this is a misconception in some ways, some of the smallest ratings are strongly indicative of a very low quality such as TT or T which mostly consist of light malformed beans and small pieces of broken beans.
Unfortunately, Kenya is known for its political corruption and the coffee industry has seen some adverse effects as a result. The overall production dropped by 70% from the peak year in 1987 to 2012. In that same year a global shortage of coffee, resulting in much higher demand, saw armed robberies of coffee factories throughout Kenya become commonplace. In some instances, local officials were even implicated in some of the incursions. Industry professionals also expressed frustration toward inefficient government policies in 2013 in an article published by Business Daily Africa.
Despite these more recent difficulties, Kenya continues to produce high quality coffees with a significant amount of traceability. Kenyan coffees, like many African coffees, are known for their sweetness, brightness, and higher acidity. Kenyan lots in particular are known for their complex berry notes.
Today’s blog post was written by our resident Barista Bad Boy, Derek Cox.