The Journey of Kenyan Coffee

Posted on January 18th, 2023.

Kenyan coffee is known for its unique and complex flavors, making it a favorite among specialty coffee connoisseurs around the world. However, many coffee lovers may not be aware of the rich history and culture behind this beloved beverage. In this blog post, we'll take a deep dive into the world of Kenyan coffee, exploring its origins, production methods, and the challenges facing the industry today.

The history of Kenyan coffee can be traced back to the late 19th century, when the first coffee plants were introduced to the country by British colonizers. In the early years, coffee was primarily grown on large estates owned by Europeans, but by the early 20th century, small-scale farmers began to take up coffee cultivation as a way to improve their livelihoods.

Today, nearly 1 million small and medium-scale farmers in Kenya grow coffee, making it one of the country's most important cash crops. The majority of Kenyan coffee is grown in the highlands, where the cool temperatures and rich volcanic soil provide ideal growing conditions. Coffee is usually grown in small plots, interspersed among other crops such as bananas and avocados, which helps to protect the soil and provide shade for the coffee plants.

One of the things that sets Kenyan coffee apart from other origins is its unique production method. Unlike other countries where coffee is typically picked by hand, in Kenya the coffee is harvested using a method called "strip picking." This method involves cutting all the ripe cherries off the branch at once, rather than selectively picking only the ripe ones. This method is not only more efficient but it also helps to ensure that all the cherries are fully ripe, which results in a higher-quality coffee.

The coffee cherries are then taken to a wet mill, where they are fermented to remove the outer layer of mucilage. After fermentation, the beans are washed and then dried on raised beds. This process is carefully monitored to ensure that the beans are dried to the optimal moisture content. Once the beans are dry, they are sorted by size and quality and then packaged for export.

Despite the high quality of Kenyan coffee, the industry has faced many challenges in recent years. One of the biggest issues is the lack of transparency and fair prices for farmers. Many farmers are not able to earn a living wage from their coffee production, which has led to a decline in the number of farmers growing coffee. Additionally, many farmers lack access to the knowledge and resources needed to improve the quality of their coffee.

Another issue facing the Kenyan coffee industry is the lack of economic stability. Coffee is a seasonal crop, which means that farmers often have to rely on other sources of income to support themselves and their families. This lack of economic stability has led to a decline in the number of farmers growing coffee, as well as a decline in the overall quality of the coffee being produced.

In order to address these issues, there is a need for more transparency and fair prices for farmers. This can be achieved by connecting farmers directly with specialty coffee roasters, which will help to create long-term relationships and give farmers a fair share of the coffee trade. Additionally, providing farmers with access to knowledge and resources will help to improve the quality of their coffee and increase their income.

Jamii Coffee is a specialty coffee importer based in Dundee, Scotland that works to improve the quality of life in Kenyan rural communities by connecting them directly to specialty coffee roasters. Our Soil Cup sourcing approach transparently simplifies the trade of Kenyan coffee by directly connecting coffee farmers with specialty coffee roasters to create long-term relationships and give farmers their fair share of the coffee trade.

At Jamii Coffee, we believe in the importance of protecting the environment and preserving biodiversity. That's why we work closely with farmers to implement sustainable farming practices, such as agroforestry and conservation of natural resources. These practices not only help to protect the environment but also improve the livelihoods of coffee growing families.

In conclusion, Kenyan coffee is a unique and delicious beverage that is steeped in history and culture. However, the industry is facing many challenges, including lack of transparency, fair prices, and economic stability. By connecting farmers directly with specialty coffee roasters, providing access to knowledge and resources, and implementing sustainable farming practices, we can work towards creating a successful and sustainable Kenyan coffee industry. At Jamii Coffee, we invite you to join us on this journey by trying our high-quality coffees today. 

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