Tales from Africa Series 2 - Kenya Coffee
KENYA COFFEE BEANS
Indeed, when it comes to coffee production, Kenya has a reputation for absolute excellence, especially because it lies near the region where coffee beans originated.
Kenya has become the giant of African coffee production, ever since coffee made its way over the mountains from Ethiopia. The high plateaus of Kenya produce coffee beans with a full body and rich, strong flavour with a very pleasant acidity. The fragrant aroma also has floral tones, with a winey finish/aftertaste that also has citrus and berry overtones.
Kenya Coffee Grades
Coffee in Kenya undergoes a grading system. For each coffee lot produced, the coffee beans are rigorously tested for quality and then sorted into various grades depending on size, weight and shape. Kenya AA coffee, Kenya's premium grade of coffee, is simply a measure of the size, weight and shape of the bean. The grade sizes, ranging in order from the largest to the smallest, are AA, AB, PB, C, E, TT and T.
Why is size important? It is because bigger beans mean more aroma and flavour — two qualities which are of the utmost importance to coffee drinkers. Bigger coffee beans are perceived to produce better quality coffee, all other factors remaining the same.
If you are looking for a great cup of African coffee packed with delicious, rich and delightful flavour, coffee from Kenya will delight your taste buds.
Quality of Kenyan Coffee
Kenyan Arabica is grown on rich volcanic soils found in the highlands between 1,400 to 2,000 meters above sea level. Its altitude makes for a bright coffee, not for those who are adverse to acidity. But if acidity's your thing, then Kenyan coffee is where it's at. Kenyan coffee is complex and can possess interesting fruit flavours of berry and citrus, some almost winey.
Quality-assurance is also aided by a high level of competition and pride among the farmers, who stand the chance to receive munificent incentives for the production of excellent coffee from their cooperatives. Needless to say, the open coffee auctions held weekly in Nairobi are often extremely lively affairs where hotly contested auction lots are won or lost. Here, international buyers vie for the best of the Kenyan coffee farmers' harvests to be distributed and sold all over the world to discerning coffee gourmets.
Kenya coffee has been grown for over a century now, since 1893 when it was first introduced in Kenya. The total area under coffee is estimated at 160,000 hectares, about one third of which is the plantation sector and the rests under small holder sector with an estimated 700,000 growers.
The total annual production has been fluctuating widely due to climate as well as socio-economic factors. At the moment, production stands at about one million bags per year. There are two distinct flowerings in each year, shortly after the beginning of the rains in March/April or October. In most districts the main crop ripens from October to December. The early crop often starts in May-July. At the moment, production stands at about one million bags per year.
Grown at elevations higher than 6,600 feet above sea level, Kenya AA is considered to be one of the world's best coffee beans. The high growing altitudes means that the beans grow slower than at low altitudes, providing more nutrients and allowing them more time to develop their flavours and mature.
As the highest grade of Kenyan coffee and considered to be one of the best Arabica coffees in the world, Kenya AA coffees are all produced from the finest Arabica beans. This can be one of the reasons why people love to buy Kenya AA coffees. The skin of the coffee cherry is first peeled off, after which the remaining beans are left to soak in a tank. Known as wet-processing, leaving the beans to soak in a fermentation tank allows the beans' own enzymes to loosen the residue that remain on their surface. This loosened residue forms a thin, parchment-like layer when the beans are dried in the sun, and can be removed with no trouble at all with a mechanical huller. Beans are graded based on their size following the milling process.
The meticulous roasting process ensures excellence when it comes to coffee. It is well-known all over the world. It is much sought after for its bold, intense, full-bodied flavour that is accompanied by overtones of berry and citrus fruits and mild floral fragrance. Kenya AA coffees have a fast-growing reputation among coffee aficionados as a full-bodied, robustly flavoured pick-me-up that has a markedly fruity or winey overtone. This has lead to Kenya AA coffee being described as sweet with a bright acidity that may take some getting used to, and one would do well to make such an effort. People are attracted to Kenya AA coffee due to the stringent standards of quality inspection and it is proven that coffees made with Kenyan AA coffee beans contain little or no bitter flavours.
The best Kenya AA coffee is often given a Medium Roast to allow the coffee's natural brightness to shine. Roasting it darker results in a loss of the nuances that make this bean so great, though can be done for those who prefer their coffees with more "coffee" flavour.
As with any single origin Arabica coffee, fresh roasted in whatever roast you like best will deliver better results than old, stale coffee that may have been sitting in distribution warehouses and on shelves for months. Organic Kenyan coffee isn't seen very often, but not for any negative reasons. The coffee industry in Kenya is one of the better regulated, with high quality standards that do well without Fair Trade or Organic certifications.
Finally, Kenya AA is the largest bean grown in Kenya, and brews up a complex, fruity, light, and very bright cup. This is an exquisite coffee with an assertive, lively personality.