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The Coffee of Kenya

December 27, 2010

/files/u3017/87_kenya.jpg" align="left" height="180" hspace="1" vspace="1" width="279" />Kenya has plenty to offer the traveler investigating historical colonial cities, discovering the beauty of Masai Mara, or trekking the winding paths of Mount Kenya. For the coffee enthusiast, the highlands and farmland surrounding the capital, Nairobi, are sewn with the seeds that produce some of the worlds most respected coffees. The coffee here is unique and inspires many visitors to hop in a SUV and visit the source of Kenyan coffee creativity, the co-op. In Kenya, cooperative methods are used to grow, harvest, process, and sell the coffee to brokers from around the world. Once a week, the fruits of their labor are assigned a value and the coffee market of Nairobi stirs as bids are placed and thousands of kilograms of green beans begin their journey. For Kenya, it all began in 1893.


After a diplomatic struggle between Germany and the British Empire ended, the British East African Company was dealt with the task of managing this new realm of mercantilism. Though tea was the preferred crop, local farmers led by French missionaries had different ideas. As tea grew and other commodities filled the vessels streaming in from across the empire, farmers were planting seeds for a plant discovered by their northern neighbor. On the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s coffee trade was born.


Perhaps out of this humble beginning or their experiences under colonial regulation the Kenyan adherence to cooperation regarding many aspects of coffee production was conceived. The joy that coffee brings carries many travelers over dirt roads and stunning landscapes to search for simple signs of wood and fading paint. Here lies the cooperative, headquarters a few meters ahead. A majority of Kenya’s coffee is produced by small farms which are members of a variety of well structured cooperatives. These men and women work hard to produce a rating of AA, which are the largest beans and, often, the highest quality. Though AA beans may be better or worse than other AAs, the smaller varieties such as AB never seem to be able to produce as wonderful of a cup.


Be it Kenyan AA or AB, the coffee is not brokered in a traditional manner, but is sold at auction in The Coffee Plaza within Nairobi. The weekly auction attracts brokers from around the world and generally rewards higher quality coffee with higher winning bids. The green beans are then shipped to brokers who negotiate prices for sale to roasters. It is here, in the cavernous holds of commercial machines or a simple home device that transformation from bean to cup truly begins.


When the bean completes its long journey to be roasted, ground, brewed, and poured into your cup, you can expect a balanced and complex cup of coffee. Fruit notes and the taste of a dry wine tend to prevail in coffee from this region. To ensure you experience this unique coffee to its fullest potential, always buy fresh varieties like you will find here on Roaste.





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