Origin Guide, Africa.
Situated on the equator on Africa’s east coast, Kenya has been described as “the cradle of humanity” as, in the Great Rift Valley, palaeontologists have discovered some of the earliest evidence of man’s ancestors. Kenya’s topography is incredibly diverse and very well suited to coffee production, despite it being a non-native crop. It is thought coffee was first introduced to Kenya by French missionaries in 1893 who brought Bourbon seeds from Réunion. Large estates were initially responsible for coffee production due to the British colonial rule which established import links with London, though in 1934 the Kenya Coffee Board was established which set up an auction system allowing coffee to be sold internally too.
The development of hybrids during the 1930s brought about the highly successful varietals, SL28 and SL34 – coffees that are now world famous and highly admired for their wonderful complexity in the cup with unrivalled lemony acidity. It is thought the country’s best coffees are grown in the Central Highlands on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya to the north and in the foothills of the Aberdare Mountains to the west. Here the coffee is grown on farms with altitudes of up to 1,800 metres above sea level – and this, along with the fertile volcanic soils of the region, is the key to the almost unbelievable flavours that can be found within the cup. About 60% of Kenya’s coffee is produced on cooperatives with estates and plantations making up the balance. Despite the global fame and appreciation for Kenyan coffee, the industry has many flaws and we have had to work hard to navigate the traps and pitfalls to build true impact, trust and traceability into our buying approach.
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We are truly blessed to have such a fantastic relationship with Vava which not only helps us to learn more about the industry in Kenya but also helps us access some incredible coffees from lesser known regions.