At first, Kenya looks like a lot of other coffee-producing countries – gorgeous landscapes, industrial coffee mills, and lush coffee trees. But scratch the surface and you’ll find a unique history that’s led it to produce some of the best beans in the world.
The British introduced coffee to Kenya around the turn of the 20th century, establishing the coffee auction system that continues to this day. The Nairobi Coffee Exchange is held weekly in the Wakulima House, and sets the price for most coffee exported from Kenya.
The auction system fostered a culture focused on sparing no effort or expense to produce the very best coffee. As a result, the country is held in the highest esteem by coffee experts for its mouth-watering acidity, persistent sweetness, and full-bodied cups.
Clues of this unique coffee history are everywhere: sorting by ripeness before pulping, long-lasting fermentation, extra soaking and careful drying, immaculately clean parchment, sorting parchment for defects, dry mills separating beans by density and size, sample bags everywhere.
And it works. Coffees like Kagumo-ini, from Karatina town in Nyeri district, are largely the result of this strict indulgence in quality. With just over a thousand smallholder farmers growing SL28 and SL34 varieties – esteemed for their cup characteristics, scorned for how difficult they are to maintain – extra attention is given to picking only the ripest cherries and processing them with special care.
Nothing about this coffee falls short of its beautiful origin. Sweetly-citric flavors of navel orange and pink grapefruit frame a cup that includes ripe raspberries, hints of ginger, and sweet baking spices.