Although fast becoming one of the world’s finest Arabica bean coffees, Kenya AA coffee is not new. Grown at elevations of 4,900 to 6,800 feet on volcanic soils and wet-processed; the beans are harvested, immediately removed from the cherries, and washed to remove the excess pulp, leaving the coffee with a full body of flavor and a heavy acidity that presents a gentle floral aroma as well as berry and citrus notes. Kenya coffee is graded by size. The AA indicated the bean is of the largest in size as well as flavor.
Arabica coffee is believed to have originated in Ethiopia, a neighbor of Kenya as early as the 15th Century. However, it was not until about 1893 that coffee was introduced to Kenya when missionaries tried to import Bourbon Coffee from Brazil.
The history of coffee into Kenya was complicated by the colonization of Kenya by the British and Kenya’s struggles for independence. After Kenya was colonized, Britain declared that certain crops were to be grown by the white settlers and free labor was to be provided by the Africans. Coffee was declared as one of those crops. Only after the Mau Mau war ended in 1960, were some Africans allowed to grow coffee. However, there were strict controls on how many plants could be grown. In addition, the Africans could never to use the coffee beans as a drink.
Furthermore, all coffee was processed and marketed centrally, and the best coffees were exported, leaving only the poorest quality coffee to be sold locally. Generations of native Kenyans never knew their country produced some of the world’s best coffee. These restrictions on growing and selling coffee were in place until less than 15 years ago. Today, Kenyans can grow, process and consume whatever amount or quality they desire. They can sell through cooperatives or direct. And they can determine the price of their coffee.
A large percentage of the Kenyan coffee is produced by cooperative societies consisting of small landholders rather than the large coffee estates. The coffee is auctioned every Tuesday night during harvest. This has led to price wars for the best coffees. The AA is lthe argest and is most flavorful. Today approximately 250,000 Kenyans are employed in coffee production.
Kenya now produces some of the world’s finest coffees. As a single origin coffee, it is praised at the coffee judging cupping tables. Kenya has attained a high level of quality as a result of a government-run system that rewards farmers for producing better quality coffee. This policy has resulted in steady improvements in coffee quality. Whether from a large or small farm or a small co-op, all Kenyan coffee undergoes rigorous testing for quality by the Coffee Board of Kenya.