Coffee From Kenya: 7 Major Facts You Should Know About Kenyan Coffee Beans

Kenyan coffee beans are deeply loved and enjoyed by coffee drinkers all around the world. Here are 7 major facts you should know about Kenyan coffee beans.

42.9% of Americans say they like drinking coffee because it tastes good. Yet, with so many sugary lattes out there, it seems some people aren’t referring to the taste of coffee itself. Maybe it’s time they tried a cup of Kenyan coffee.

Kenyan coffee beans are world-renowned for their intense flavor profile and mouth-watering aroma. Brew up a cup and see for yourself— the stuff is so good, it might make you a die-hard black coffee drinker.

With all the hype surrounding Kenyan coffee, though, you may not know the hard facts about how Kenyan coffee comes about. From bean to cup, we’re about to tell you seven things you don’t know about Kenya’s top export.

Wondering why Kenya turns out such high-quality beans and whether they’re right for your coffee shop? Then you better keep reading.

1. Kenyan Coffee is One of the World’s Five Best Coffees

Many people list Kenyan coffee among the five best in the world. With its rich body, high acidity, intense flavor, and delightful aroma, it should be no wonder.

Kenyan coffee is known for its in-your-face acidity and berry undertones. One of those berry notes is black currant. Black current is a flavor that is distinct to Kenyan beans, and one of the reasons a cup of coffee from Kenya tastes so unique.

Depending on the grade of coffee beans you get, Kenyan coffee can have an addictively sweet characteristic. We recommend always going for Kenya AA coffee. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, because we’re talking about Kenyan coffee grades in a bit.

2. Kenyan Coffee Beans Have SHG/SHB Status

Coffee beans from Kenya grow at elevations anywhere from 1,400 to 2,000 meters high. This elevation means Kenyan coffee beans qualify for Strictly High Grown (SHG) / Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) status.

SHG/SHB status is an aspect of coffee grade, which we’ll talk about more below. It means the coffee beans are grown at high elevations, which allows beans to develop slowly and with more nutrients than lower-grown beans.

3. There are Five Distinct Kenyan Coffee Varietals

“Varietal” is a term borrowed from the wine world. In terms of coffee, it means all of the different types of coffee that can be made from a single type of coffee bean. Depending on the varietal, the coffee bean quality will differ.

Kenyan coffee beans are Arabica beans that come in five different varietals:

  • SL 28
  • SL 34
  • K7
  • Ruiru 11
  • Batian

What’s the difference? SL28 is a medium- to high-elevation coffee bean that requires much less rain than its near cousin, SL34. K7 is a newer varietal that doesn’t produce as good of a cup of coffee as the SL28 and SL34 but has the advantage of disease immunity.

Scientists created new varietals to answer the problem K7 posed. Could a bean be immune against diseases while also producing an excellent cup of coffee? Try a cup of Ruiru 11 or Batian Kenyan beans and taste the evidence for yourself!

4. Kenyan Green Coffee Beans Undergo Wet Processing

Wet processing is a method by which the green, unroasted coffee bean is removed from its outer shell (called parchment). This type of processing usually occurs when the coffee fruit is still moist or just after harvest.

Why does wet processing matter? A wet-processed coffee tends to taste cleaner and feel thinner in the mouth (i.e., less body) once brewed. Some roasters also say that wet processing maintains the high acid content Kenyan coffees are known for.

5. Kenyan and Ethiopian Coffee Beans are Similar

Think you recognize the flavors in that cup of Kenyan coffee? If you’re a seasoned coffee drinker, you’re probably right because Kenyan and Ethiopian beans have a lot in common.

After all, the original Kenyan varietal, SL28, came from Ethiopia in the first place. Many people compare the dry, acidic aftertaste of Kenyan coffees to that of Ethiopian Harrar roasts.

Today, most Kenyan Varietals are offshoots of hybrids produced in the 1950s. Scott Laboratories introduced new Kenyan coffee beans to the market, which have overtaken the Ethopian imports of decades earlier.

6. Kenyan Coffee Comes in Grades

Currently, there are 8 Kenyan coffee bean grades: E, PB, AA, AB, C, TT, T, and MH/ML. Grades are given to coffee beans before roasting to determine their size. Bean size is important since beans of the same size roast at the same rates.

For example, Grade E or Elephant grade coffee beans are the largest grade of Kenyan beans. This category includes Kenya PB or Kenya Peaberry beans and Kenya AA beans. Kenya AA beans are the largest Kenya coffee beans money can buy.

Why is grade important? The grade determines the flavor profile of one cup of Kenyan coffee versus another. Kenya AA beans, for instance, are typically sweeter than, say, Kenya MH/ML beans, which are low-quality and tend to taste sour.

7. Kenya Doesn’t Drink the Coffee It Produces

Another reason Kenyan coffee is so sought after is that the country doesn’t actually produce that much of it. Kenya contains only about 150,000 hectares of plantable land. Coffee beans are typically grown in the following regions:

  • Ruiri
  • Thika
  • Kirinyaga
  • Mt. Kenya West
  • Nyeri
  • Kiambu
  • Muranga

Did you know that the people living in these regions only drink a fraction of the coffee they produce? Kenya is predominately a tea-drinking country, unlike neighboring Ethiopia. This fact means that there’s more Kenyan coffee for the rest of us.

Your Customers Will Love Coffee from Kenya

If you’re searching for a coffee bean origin to make your coffee shop an instant success, you really can’t go wrong with Kenya. Kenyan coffee has the medium acidity coffee lovers crave with the rich berry undertones to convert any coffee pessimist.

Are you searching for wholesale Kenyan coffee beans for your startup coffee shop? ICT Coffee wants to lend you a hand. Get in touch with us to learn more about our incredible wholesale beans.

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