Most coffee connoisseurs are familiar with the beloved birthplace of the coffee bean – Ethiopia. But directly next door, Kenya also happens to be one of the largest coffee producers in the world.
This stat might not readily impress the everyday coffee drinker until you learn that Kenya didn’t really delve into the coffee bean business until the 20th century (They were too busy making tea). Today, coffee aficionados consider Kenyan beans to be the crème of the crop.
If you haven’t gotten your hand on a bag of Kenya beans and don’t know where to start, don’t fret. We’re here to offer some insight on what makes Kenyan coffee special and which bag of beans deserve your attention.
5 Best Kenyan Coffee Brands
Volcanica, Kenya AA Coffee
Volcanica’s Kenya coffee bean starts off on the right foot by flaunting the highest grade coffee bean directly on their bag – the AA bean. But don’t worry, the fun doesn’t stop there.
This crisp, sweet, and delectable bean delivers a characteristically complex and fruity Kenyan flavor profile by offering cupping notes of raspberry, cranberry, and fresh-cut redwood.
The aromatic oils cultivated from this premium AA bean are not only guaranteed to fill your cup with floral fragrances but are coupled with pleasantly light and vibrant acidity. According to Volcanica, this East African bean also pays tribute to its origins by delivering a full-bodied, robust, and “impressively plump” cup of joe.
Out of the Grey, Kenya AA Coffee
When it comes to 100% organic Kenyan coffee beans, you can’t go wrong with Out of the Grey.
This dark-medium roast, AA bean is teeming with sweet and earthy flavor notes like blackcurrant, fennel, raisins, and menthol. On paper, you might be wondering how these quirky flavors mesh.
But, according to industry experts, the intricate flavor profile and subtle floral notes in Out of the Grey’s Kenyan bean work flawlessly with the bean’s bright acidity and velvety body.
Just don’t be surprised if your batch of beans smells like black tea. You haven’t been bamboozled – that’s just these aromatic and authentic Kenyan beans doing their thing.
Volanica, Kenya Peaberry
If you’re considering adding Volcanica’s Kenyan AA bean to your shopping cart, you might as well add a specialized micro-lot, Peaberry bean to the mix.
Only 5 percent of Kenyan coffee bean crops are Peaberry beans, making them a truly special varietal. Similar to the AA Kenyan bean, the Peaberry is full-bodied and offers hints of wine and black currant flavor.
Not to mention, calling this bean complex is kind of an understatement. Volcanica’s Peaberry brew is multifaceted, offering both berry and citrus flavor notes that are balanced out by hints of spice and bright acidity.
Chiru Coffee Connection, Kenya AA
Chiru’s owner, Christine, was born and raised in Nyeri, Kenya and specializes in importing premium Kenyan coffee beans. Her personal ties to the origin of her beans and passion for supporting local coffee farmers make it apparent that quality and community are the forefront of her coffee bean business.
Like Volcanica and Out of the Grey, Chiru offers the finest AA graded Kenyan Beans. Sourced from the volcanic soil of the central highlands, Chiru’s beans are Fair Trade, which means they’re sourced ethically and directly from small farmers in Kenya.
Chiru’s single-origin, 100% Arabica beans are similar to the other brews on this list in that they are rich, fruity, and have a faint citrusy undertone. They also deliver the wine-like aftertaste you’d expect from a traditional Kenyan bean.
Where they differ, however, is in a refined honey overtones and smooth, delicate finish. According to their happy coffee-loving customers, this cup of joe is a little more reserved in terms of acidity but manages to maintain all the full-bodied flavors of an authentic Kenyan beans.
Fresh Roasted Coffee, Kenya AA Nyeri Ichamara
When it comes to single-origin Keyan coffee, Fresh Roasted Coffee’s bean has one of the most distinctive flavor profiles on this list. Peach blossoms, orange zest, and black tea all make an appearance in this brew.
Sourced from Nyeri Ichamara, these beans are also known to be exceptionally sweet but far less acidic than beans from other coffee growing regions. Eliminating the nuance of extra acidity makes this bean an ideal candidate for coffee-drinkers with sensitive stomachs or health-related restrictions.
Fresh Roasted Coffee’s Kenyan bean maintains the bold, lively, wine-like flavored notes of a classic AA Kenyan bean, but as an added bonus, you won’t be sipping on additives or artificial flavors and preservatives – this coffee bean is au naturel.
Kenyan Coffee Bean Processing
Kenya didn’t stumble into elite coffee-growing status by accident. Each batch of beans is meticulously and intentionally processed to perfection.
For starters, only the very best beans are picked and sorted by coffee farmers. Generally, high-quality Arabica beans are selectively picked. This means coffee farmers are only picking ripe cherries and ditching cherries that aren’t up to par.
Once the beans are ready to be processed, they undergo an extensive fermentation process and are processed using the wet method. This method of processing coffee beans is highly labor-intensive but produces a much fruitier and cleaner cup of joe.
The beans are then sorted, graded, and tested for quality and taste.
Grades of Kenya Coffee
Kenyan coffee beans are graded and sorted before being roasted to help with roasting consistency. More or less, the grading system determines the size, shape, and density of the bean.
Common Kenya coffee grades (or sizes) include AA, AB, PB, C, E, TT, T, and MH/MK beans.
Kenya AA beans, in particular, are known to be one of the highest-quality arabica beans on the market. They are generally grown at elevations over 6,600 feet, which allows them to develop more dynamic flavor profiles. These beans are notoriously robust, bright, fruity and floral.
Kenya AB beans, which combine A grade and B grade beans, are also considered premium beans. Despite being larger, AB beans aren’t generally rated as favorably as AA beans.
Kenya T and C beans, on the other hand, are thinner beans. In fact, Kenya T beans are generally flawed or fragmented C grade beans.
Both MH/ML beans and PB, or Peaberry, beans are incredibly rare. The difference, however, is that Peaberry beans are rare, specialty beans while MH/ML beans are unpicked, rogue beans that weren’t picked during normal harvest.
Coffee Class vs. Grade
Although larger beans are generally considered to be higher quality, it’s important to note that Kenyan coffee beans aren’t graded specifically for quality. In addition to a grade, Kenyan beans receive a ‘Class,’ ranging from 1 to 10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the best) within their grade to determine their quality.
Kenya Coffee Growing Regions
Most premium Kenyan coffee beans are grown at high elevations in the volcanic soil of the High Plateaus surrounding Mt. Kenya. The largest growing region spans from the slopes of Mt. Kenya to the capital, Nairobi. It’s not uncommon to see a specialty bag of Mt. Kenya beans classified as just “Nairobi.”
There are also several, smaller coffee-growing regions on Mt. Elgon, which sits on the border of Uganda and Kenya.
Each coffee growing region is distinctly different and has a unique flavor profile. However, Kenyan beans generally feature fruity overtones, wine-like acidity, and are notoriously robust.
Kenya’s warm climate, high altitudes, and rich volcanic soil create the ideal groundwork for premium Arabica beans. But it’s truly the country’s commitment to consistency and quality that places them at the top of the coffee-bean chain.
Needless to say, we recommend getting on the Kenyan coffee bandwagon and trying some of this notoriously complex, well-balanced, wine-esque, top-grade coffee for yourself.