Africa is arguably the most important component of coffee production, and in addition to Ethiopia, the coffee gene bank, there are many places such as Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. The production in several other places is not large and not particularly mainstream, but Kenya, as one of the famous production areas in Africa, I think it should be taken out in detail.

General Information

Kenya has a rich topography, mostly highland mountains with an average altitude of 1500 meters; the eastern part is 500 meters above sea level, the western part is the eastern branch of the East African Rift Valley belt with an altitude of 2000-3000 meters, and the Indian Ocean coast is a plain about 200 kilometers wide. The terrain of Kenya climbs from the coastal plain to the central plateau, which is divided into two parts by the East African Rift Valley.

Kenya’s climate is diverse, with the entire country located in the tropical monsoon region, the coastal areas are hot and humid, and the highlands are mild, with snow sometimes falling in the mountains above 3,500 meters. The annual maximum temperature is 26 ℃, the minimum is 12 ℃. South of the equator is mainly tropical forest and savanna climate; coastal areas are tropical climate, high temperature and rainfall throughout the year; the further inland, the more arid its climate, the northern desert and semi-desert areas account for about 56% of the country. Influenced by the monsoon climate, Kenya does not have four seasons highlighted by temperature, only the difference between the rainy season and the dry season.

Coffee History

Although Kenya is close to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, the development of coffee in Kenya is much later than in Ethiopia.

Coffee was introduced to Kenya in 1893 when missionaries imported bourbon coffee from Brazil. It was first planted at Bura in the Taita Mountains, then at Kibwezi in 1900 and Kikuyu in 1904. Kenya was then under British control and was known as the East African Protectorate. As a result, the British controlled agriculture in the region, including, of course, coffee cultivation.

At that time, one needed to listen to the colonists on what crops to grow, while the locals provided free or cheap labor. There were no regulations on the cultivation, production, processing, grading and marketing of the crop.

It wasn’t until the Coffee Act passed in 1933 that the marketing and sale of coffee was not only returned to Kenya domestically, but with the establishment of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (N.C.E.), a weekly auction that still operates today for most of the country’s coffee sales.

In the 1950s, in response to civil unrest between the colonial government and Kenya’s indigenous population, land reform was passed, allowing Kenyans to grow their own coffee for the first time and dispossessing many European landowners of their property. The redistribution program at that time created the network of small farmers that still dominates the country today. In Kenya, more than 75% of coffee growers own less than 3 hectares of land, and today about 80% of farmers are Kenyans, not of European descent.

Kenya entered a period of terminal prosperity after independence in 1963 due to good weather and high coffee prices; however, a price crisis in the 1990s forced many Kenyans to cut down their coffee trees, resulting in a dramatic decline in annual production. As we enter the millennium to the present, the demand for fine coffee continues to increase and flavor has been the rallying cry of the Kenyan coffee industry.

In July 2001, the new Coffee Act was enacted, establishing the Board as a statutory agency under the Ministry of Agriculture. The Act established new responsibilities for CBK (currently the Bureau of Coffee under the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Administration (AFFA)), including the development of policies to strengthen coffee production, processing, and local and global marketing registration and licensing.

Kenya is the fifth largest (the top four are: Ethiopia, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania) coffee producer in Africa. According to the International Coffee Organization, the country produced about 775,000 bags (60kg/bag) of coffee in 2020.

About 95% of the country’s coffee is exported to many international markets, and the remaining 5% of coffee production is consumed domestically with the United States and Germany being the largest importers.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Kenya’s domestic coffee consumption is estimated to rise to 43,000 bags by the end of 2022.

Coffee growing and production areas

Most of the coffee in Kenya is grown at altitudes of 1400 – 2000 meters; average temperatures range from 15 – 24°C and average annual rainfall is 900 – 1200 mm. The acidic soils provide the best growing conditions in the high altitude plateau areas around Mount Kenya, including the Aberdare Mountains, Nyanza, Kisii, Bungoma, Kericho and Nakuru, where the Arabica varieties grown were first introduced from Ethiopia.

Kenya’s coffee crop generally blooms after the start of the rainy season from March to April, with coffee cherries ripening from May to July and then again in September and October, with most of Kenya’s coffee cherries ripening from October to December.

About 115,600 hectares of land in Kenya are dedicated to coffee production in 32 counties. About 6 million Kenyans are involved in the country’s coffee industry, including about 800,000 smallholders.

Since few small farmers grow individually, many belong to Farmer Cooperative Societies (F.C.S.). These associations own and operate coffee plants, which are often referred to as processing stations. An F.C.S. may have hundreds or thousands of smallholder members who supply coffee cherries to the processing stations.

Central region

The Central region accounts for about 60% of Kenya’s total coffee production, with Nyeri, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a and Thika as the main growing areas. It is also the country’s traditional coffee growing region, with small and large farms located on the slopes of Mount Kenya (5,199 meters above sea level) and the Aberdare Mountains (3,720 meters above sea level). Overall, the central region has fertile volcanic soils, just the right amount of sunshine and precipitation to produce some of Kenya’s best quality Arabica coffee. The region has also seen the development of other industries such as tea and dairy farming.

Kiambu was once called the “Brazil” of Kenya because of its many large coffee estates. It is located in the eastern part of the Great Rift Valley, at the foot of the Aberdare Ridge, adjacent to the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Kiambu has an altitude range of 1520 – 2200 meters and has red volcanic soil rich in organic matter. The average annual rainfall is 1098 mm, falling in a bimodal pattern in two different rainy seasons. Sadly, owners are now converting most of the large coffee farms into real estate, largely due to the economic downturn and increasing pressure of urbanization in the area.

Kirinyaga’s coffee farm is located on the slopes of the snow-capped mountains of Kenya, at an altitude of about 1310 -1900 meters. The average rainfall is about 1518 mm, divided into two different seasons. Murang’a is located in the foothills of the Aberdare Ridge and includes the Maragua, Murang’a, Mitubiri and Makuyu growing areas. The elevation varies from 1340-1950 meters and the average annual rainfall is about 1305 mm. On the other hand, parts of Nyeri are located at the foot of the Aberdare Ridge. The altitude ranges from 1220-2200 m and the average annual rainfall is 953 mm.

Kiambu and Thika produce coffee with a rich acidity and a grapefruit flavor. In contrast, the coffees from Kirinyaga and Nyeri exhibit a sharp, full-bodied taste with citrus acidity, chocolate and blackcurrant flavors.

Eastern Region

The eastern coffee growing region of Kenya includes Machakos, Embu, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties.The coffee of Meru and Tharaka Nithi is grown in the eastern highlands of Mount Kenya and around Mount Nyambene. However, the coffee of Tharaka Nithi is grown only in the Nithi area. At an altitude of 1280-1970 m, the average annual rainfall is about 1287 mm. The coffee of Embu is grown in the eastern highlands of Mount Kenya at an altitude of 1280-1900 m. The soil of Embu, central Meru and Tharaka Nithi is dark red volcanic rock, rich in organic matter.

In contrast, Machakos and Makueni are mainly arid and semi-arid areas; therefore, coffee cultivation is mainly in hilly areas such as the Iveti, Kangundo, Machakos, Donyo Sabuk and Mbooni regions. The altitude ranges from 1400-1830 meters, the soil is red volcanic rock, and the average annual rainfall is about 685 mm.

East African Rift Valley region (Rift valley region)

The Great Rift Valley is another of Kenya’s prized attractions. Stretching from Lebanon in the Middle East to Mozambique, the 6,000-mile valley in the African crust, most of which is in Kenya, bisects the country.

Local communities in Kenya’s Rift Valley region are primarily maize farmers and livestock breeders. But there is a gradual transition to coffee farming, spearheaded by young men and women. Societies like the Kapngetuny Farmers Cooperative Association have embraced women in coffee farming.

Coffee is mainly grown in the highlands of Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Transnzoia and Kipkelion, with Ruiru 11 and Batian being the main coffee varieties. These regions produce coffees with medium acidity, full-bodied fruit aromas, and rich chocolate flavors.

Trans-Nzoia, Keiyo and Marakwet are also promising coffee growing areas west of the Great Rift Valley, including the growing areas of West Pokot, Uasin Gishu, Kitale and Markwet. In this region, production is expected to grow as farms diversify into coffee as an alternative to maize and dairy enterprises.

Nakuru, Baringo, and other areas south of the equator in Laikipia; coffee is grown over a large area with elevations ranging from a maximum of 2,200 meters to a minimum of 1,830 meters. The soils vary from volcanic ash to fertile red volcanic soils, with an average annual rainfall of about 937 mm.

Western region

The three counties of Bungoma, Vihiga and Kakamega are located in the foothills of Mount Elgon (4321 m above sea level) in western Kenya. The altitude ranges from 1500 – 1950 meters and the annual rainfall is 1514 mm. Bungoma’s main cash crops include sugarcane, coffee, cotton, palm oil, sunflower seeds and tobacco. Coffee is grown on the slopes of Mount Elgon, producing the bright acidity and fruity flavors characteristic of high altitudes.

Vihiga County is one of the counties in Kenya with favorable ecological conditions for growing coffee, including acidic soils, sunshine, suitable temperatures and rainfall. In contrast, Trans-Nzoia is the ‘corn belt’ of Kenya, where coffee is grown on small to medium-sized estates. The coffee produced here is full-bodied with a pronounced citrus flavor.

Nyanza province (Nyanza region)

The penultimate place in Kenya for coffee production is the Nyanza region, located around Lake Victoria. The main growing areas are Kisii, Nyamira, Migori and Kisumu. Kisii and Nyamira are densely populated and have an average land area of up to 0.1 hectares. The altitude ranges from 1450 – 1800 meters and the soil is a deep red volcanic soil rich in organic matter. Rainfall is abundant, with an annual average of about 2163 mm. the main coffee varieties of Kisii and Nyamira are SL28, SL34, K7 and Blue Mountain, the latter not being popular in other parts of the country.

Oyugis and Homabay are coffee-growing areas close to Lake Victoria, with high potential, although yields are still low.

Coffees from the Nyanza region have medium acidity and medium body and creamy smoothness. Has a nice sweetness, nutty and toasty flavors, and some fruit flavors.

Major Coffee Tree Species

Kenya is actually quite diverse, and if you buy Kenyan coffee beans you will find that generally Kenya is a mix of multiple tree species. A common one is the SL28/SL34 blend. Now there are many full spelling Kenya, that is, SL28/SL34/K7/Ruuiru 11 spelling. But the really good drink, I feel that SL28/SL34 is better.


SL28 is one of the most famous and popular varieties in Africa. Originally selected in Kenya in the 1930s and spread to other parts of Africa (especially in the Arabica growing region of Uganda), it has now spread to Latin America. The variety is suitable for medium to high altitudes and shows good drought resistance, but is susceptible to common coffee diseases. There are trees of SL28 in many parts of Kenya, which are 60 – 80 years old, but still in production.

SL28 was selected at the former Scott Agricultural Laboratory (now the National Agricultural Laboratory). 42 trees of various origins were selected and studied for yield, quality, drought and disease resistance during the period 1935-1939 at the Scott Laboratory under the individual tree prefix SL. In 1931, A.D. Trench, a senior official of Scott Laboratories, visited Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Based on historical documents, he noticed a variety growing in the Moduri district that appeared to be tolerant to drought, disease and insects. He collected the seeds and brought them back to Scott’s lab and confirmed its drought resistance. This variety was widely disseminated until it was replaced by its progeny, SL28, which is considered the superior variety for intensive breeding during this period. Recent genetic testing has confirmed that SL28 is associated with the Bourbon genome.


SL34 was originally selected at Scott Agricultural Laboratories in the late 1930’s. Individual trees selected by Scott Laboratories in Kenya during 1935 – 1939 were prefixed with “SL”. SL34 was selected from a tree on the Loresho Estate in Kabete, Kenya. Recent genetic testing has shown that SL34 is associated with the Typica genome.

Ruiru 11

Ruiru 11 is a compact, high-yielding variety developed in Kenya to enable more intensive coffee cultivation and reduce pest and disease losses.

Ruiru 11 owes its emergence to a coffee berry disease (CBD) epidemic in 1968, which caused a 50% yield reduction in Kenya. in the 1970s, the coffee research station in Ruiru began a breeding program to produce varieties that were immune to CBD, and the variety was released in 1985. The variety was also named after the coffee research station.

Since Ruiru 11 relies on hand-pollination for mass propagation, it is difficult to produce sufficient quantities of seeds to meet farmers’ demand.


K7 is known for its tolerance to leaf rust and coffee berry disease and has been used extensively in modern breeding programs in Kenya and Tanzania. K7 was released in Kenya in 1936 by Scott Agricultural Laboratories after five generations of selection from the original stock. It is still widely grown in Kenya.

According to P.A. Jones, an agricultural officer at the Kenya Coffee Research Station in the 1950s, K7 was one of two trees selected by Mr. R.H. Walker from his Legetet estate in Muhorohi in 1936; one of the selections, later named K7, was recently genetically sequenced to prove that K7 was associated with the Bourbon genome .


A variety resistant to coffee leaf rust and coffee berry disease was created at the Coffee Research Station (CRS; now called Coffee Research Institute CRI) in Ruiru, Kenya. batian was released in Kenya in 2010.

Batian was produced by single-tree selection from the fifth generation (F5) of the male parent of some progeny of Ruiru 11. Batian is a composite variety, mixing three different pure lines. The varieties involved in the original cross are: SL28, SL34, Rume Sudan, N39,, K7, SL4 and Timor Hybrid.

Raw Bean Grading

Kenya coffee bean grading is mainly based on the size of the coffee particles to grade, and how to confirm the size of the coffee beans? This requires the use of a sieve tool, which is a standard sieve.

After sifting, the beans will remain in a layer of their own size. Generally speaking, raw coffee beans in Kenya are divided into eight grades.

E (Elephant bean): Here the “E” stands for Elephant, or “elephant”, but not the elephant bean (Maragogype) in the coffee bean variety, it is a kind of bean due to abnormal development, two seeds entwined with each other, forming “seemingly one”, which is considered a defect. Generally, there are two seeds in a single fruit that are stuck together face to face, but an E grade bean is a bean in which the two seeds are stuck together and become oversized as they grow.

After sifting, the beans will remain in a layer of their own size. Generally speaking, raw coffee beans in Kenya are divided into eight grades.

AA: size in 17 to 18 mesh (about 6.7 to 7.1mm), is the grading that most people have often heard of, and in fine coffee, this grade is usually called AA TOP, and is one that most coffee shops will see, but not AA means the best, which is just the size of the bean particles can not be confused with flavor.

AB: Most of the coffee beans are in this grade, the reason it is called AB is mainly because the mesh size of A is 6.80 mm, B is 6.20mm, and these two sizes of coffee beans (A grade and B grade) will be mixed together and sold, so it is called AB, the size of about 15 to 16 mesh (about 6.0 to 6.4mm).

C: size between 14 to 15 mesh (about 5.6 to 6.0mm) size, a little smaller than B grade.

PB: The full name is Peaberry, also known as small round beans. This is also a rare variety, accounting for about 10% of all coffee beans, mainly because there is only one seed within the fruit to complete development, which results in a small, round bean. Some people are particularly fond of the flavor of PB, so they will pick it out and sell it.

TT: These are lighter beans from AA and AB beans that are screened through airflow sorting machines, usually light in weight and substandard in hardness, with broken and defective beans.

T: The lighter weight beans screened from C grade beans are mixed with broken beans and even broken bean fragments.

MH/ML: These beans are not exported, but are usually overripe and fallen on the ground, and are of poor quality, accounting for about 7% of all coffee beans, and are only for the domestic market in Kenya.

There are many other countries that classify raw beans by particle size, such as Tanzania, Rwanda, Colombia, Jamaica, etc.

Treatment method

Kenya is generally treated by the water washing method, and Kenya’s water washing method has been called “the model of water washing treatment”, its coffee flavor acidity is bright and varied, sweetness and thickness is excellent, cleanliness is very clear, in addition to SL28 and SL34 two excellent varieties, and the difference with the traditional water washing treatment method is also an important reason for this early.

Treatment process.
1, coffee cherries into the beater, remove the skin and pulp

2. The beans are then placed in storage jars for 12 – 48 hours. This process is to remove the slippery layer of mucilage (called the parenchyma layer) that is still attached to the parchment; the enzymes that naturally occur while fermenting in the tank will dissolve this layer. When fermentation is complete, the beans will be rough to the touch, rather than slippery.

3. After fermentation, the coffee is sent to the grading channel, where it is washed with water. This process not only cleans the coffee beans, but also grades the coffee. The densest, best quality coffee beans are at the high end of the channel, while smaller lighter defective beans flow into the channel and are separated out.

4. after washing, the coffee beans are still wrapped in the inner rind, with a moisture content of about 11%. The coffee is then dried on a sunbed and turned regularly to ensure even drying. In rainy seasons or when natural drying is not possible, drying equipment is used.

5. Once the moisture content reaches the drying requirements, it will go to the next sorting process, this time by size and density, in addition to assessing the coffee for color defects, flaws and possible breakage during drying.

6. After which it will be bagged (70kg/bag) and put into storage waiting for sales.

In general, the fermentation time of washed beans is at most 36 hours; however, the Kenyan washed treatment will be carried out for a maximum of 72 hours and repeatedly washed about 3 times, giving the Kenyan coffee beans a strong acidity and cleanliness.

Coffee Organizations

Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE)
The main official means of trading coffee in Kenya is through auctions. The Nairobi Coffee Exchange, therefore, can also be called the Coffee Auction House. Most of the coffee beans are graded by the exchange and then sold on the auction floor.

The auction system is agent-based, with 50 licensed agents in Kenya who send samples of beans to their respective customers for cupping, who can then bid on the coffee they like at the auction, but this seems to encourage middlemen agents and erode farmers’ income, so in 2006 Kenya opened up 32 more independent sales agents who can approach foreign coffee buyers directly, without going through the auctions.

And finally
Kenya is an appellation that I think is very distinctive. The treatment is very homogeneous, but has more character than any appellation’s washes. The acidity is stronger than Esse, but again the acidity is very distinctive. If one likes a coffee with stronger acidity, yet clean and bright, Kenya is a good choice. By now, the important coffee production areas in Africa worth introducing have been introduced, and the coffee map series will soon come to an end, the next article starts our entry into the American continent, enjoy the anticipation.