As any coffee lover knows, only a handful of countries produce the highest-quality beans in the world.
Coffee from Kenya is famous for its complexity and often acidity.
Below we discuss why beans from Kenya are famous and what the best Kenyan coffee brands are in 2021. But, if you’re in a hurry here’s our top pick:
Vibrant acidity with flavor notes of berry and citrus overtones. Also accompanied by notes of strawberry, lemon, guava, and hints of spice.
Kenyan Coffee History
With the birthplace of beans as its neighbor, you might think that Kenya has a long-standing tradition of growing coffee, just like Ethiopia.
The truth is, It wasn’t until 1893 when the coffee bean first arrived in Kenya, centuries after the discovery of Java. European missionaries planted the first coffee trees of the Bourbon variety around the hills of Nairobi.
Today, Kenya is the 16th largest coffee bean producer globally, with a primary focus on growing Arabica beans. Up to 2/3 of Kenyan beans are grown by coffee farmers in small-scale lots, with the remaining third in plantations.
Annual yields amount to around 100 million tons with 95% exported as Kenyans prefer to drink tea than coffee.
Kenya’s focus on cultivating high quality beans has put them on the frontier of development and technology compared to other competing regions.
This also includes the way coffee beans are graded in the country. More specifically, in terms of bean sizes, even how the bean is roasted and most importantly, its flavor.
The 5 Best Kenyan Coffee Brands 2021
Beans from Kenya are often favored for their acidity and complex flavors, including floral notes to black tea. Below, we run through some of our favorites.
Volcanica is a coffee brand that delivers each and every time. Freshly roasted on order and grown in volcanic soil, this Kenyan single origin is our top pick, and for a good reason.
We’d recommend grabbing these beans as a whole bean coffee to guarantee freshness, but if a grinder’s out of the question, it is available as ground coffee in a variety of grind sizes too.
These beans are also fair-trade certified, so rest assured that the coffee farmers are compensated more than adequately for their efforts.
When it comes to brewing, being a medium roast, they’re perfectly paired with manual brewing methods to savor the acidity.
Overall, It’s no wonder why Volcanica Coffee’s Kenya Peaberry is our top pick with its premium quality, full body, and sweet taste.
Kenya AA grade coffee is some of the most sought after Keynan beans with its premium quality and flavor.
You’d be pleased to know that not only this medium roast Kenya AA coffee is flavorful, it’s also sustainable. Being shade-grown, each bean has been cultivated with conservation in mind and is Rainforest Alliance Certified.
Like our other picks, it’s best to get this single-origin as whole bean so you can try it out with different brewing methods. I personally find it best as a pour-over if you’re looking to enjoy the wine like brightness.
Overall, Volcanica Coffee’s Kenyan AA is a must-try, especially if you’re looking for an eco-friendly and high-quality single-origin bag of beans.
Yes, this is another Kenya AA coffee on our list, but this time it’s from veteran coffee roasters, Fresh Roasted Coffee, and each coffee bean has been dark roasted.
Roasted a little darker for smokiness and a caramel like finish.
The beans are sourced near the slopes of Mt Elgon where high altitudes start from 1,300 – 1,500 meters above sea level.
The result? Coffee beans that are sweeter than your usual pack of supermarket beans from Kenya.
As you might expect from Kenyan AA coffee, each cup has notes of peach and citrus fruits with a mellowed down acidity and added smokiness thanks to its darker roast profile. The perfect cup of coffee!
This whole bean coffee is highly versatile for most brewing methods, but if you don’t have a grinder, you can also grab some beans pre-ground in different grind sizes if you prefer.
Overall, If you’re a coffee drinker who enjoys a full bodied cup, these darkly roasted Kenya AA coffee beans from Fresh Roasted will be a welcome addition to your caffeine treasure chest.
This light roast Kenyan coffee bean is for coffee connoisseurs, and it has the perfect level of wine like acidity perfectly paired with a manual pour-over. With expert coffee roasters Equator Coffee at the helm, it’s a perfectly balanced, sweet, and nuanced brew.
These high-grown beans were grown at elevations of 1600 meters above sea level from a local cooperative located right at the heart of Kenya.
This light roast will entice you with its rich and fragrant aroma, while it’s sweet yet spice-toned flavor will have you brewing more than just one cup. This unique combination of flavors and floral notes can be perfectly highlighted in a V60 or Aeropress for a fuller body.
If you’re in a pinch, it’s available as ground coffee, but it is recommended to grind your own beans to get the most out of the coffee’s flavors.
Overall, if you’re looking for a unique light roast with a lot of depth and sweetness? This pick might be the best coffee brand for you.
Last but not least in our list is an AA grade from Cooper’s with each coffee bean roasted to a medium-dark hue. These beans are roasted in small batches to ensure freshness whenever you order.
Unlike our other picks, which have bright and fruity tasting notes, these beans are perfectly suited for espressos and lattes thanks to their chocolate overtones and the fact they’re roasted a little darker.
You can expect a unique mix of honey wheat, bittersweet chocolate, and molasses biscuit with just a hint of cherries to balance out its rich taste. A dream in a cup!
These Kenyan coffee beans are also a good jump point for those who prefer a less expensive option. It’s also a farm gate coffee, which is equivalent to a direct trade or fair-trade certification ensuring that the growers receive adequate payment for your beans.
Overall, Cooper Kenya AA might be a good fit for coffee newbies who want to dip their toes into Kenyan beans.
The Buying Guide To Kenya Coffee
Typical Kenyan Tasting Notes & Flavor
Full-bodied, crisp brightness, and complex flavor. These qualities are what make Kenyan coffee beans some of the best in the world.
It’s sweetness, and bright taste profile originates from the rich volcanic soil because it imbues each coffee bean with higher acid content.
You can expect notes of blackcurrant or citrus fruits with undertones of white wine, which are typical of Kenyan coffee.
As with other coffee-growing regions in the world, the taste and body of Kenyan coffee beans can differ depending on what part of the country the bean is grown and the varietal of the bean.
The central region of the country produces a crisp and bright cup of coffee with notes of blackcurrant, chocolate, orange zest, and black tea.
Kenyan coffee grown around Rift Valley is more balanced from its pleasant brightness in each bean. A light roast bean can have floral and spicy tones, while a darker roast is full-bodied with a rich chocolate taste.
Coffee beans cultivated from the western border contain notes of sharp acidity with a tropical fruit flavor all bundled up with a full-body.
Primary growing regions in Kenya
Most of Kenya’s coffee growing regions center around the central and eastern parts of the country.
Many small-scale farmers grow beans in different regions too. Kenyan coffee plants are grown around high plateaus and volcanic regions. Where altitudes range from 1,400 to 2,000 meters above sea level, which is essential for the growth of specialty grade Arabica coffee beans.
Kenya’s central region is based south of Mt. Kenya, where the volcanic-rich soil provides the needed nutrients for high-quality coffee. Counties that produce Kenyan beans include Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, and Muranga.
Coffee growing In west Kenya is primarily on the Rift Valley highlands and near the slopes of Mt. Elgon. Rift Valley is lined with numerous volcanoes that fertilize the soil, and counties like Nakuru, Nandi, Kipkelion, Trans Nzoia, and Baringo specialize in cultivating Arabica beans.
Whereas coffee growing near the border of Uganda includes the counties of Bungoma, Vihiga, and Kakamega. Each of these regions takes advantage of the cool climates and high elevations from the nearby Mt. Elgon.
The Final Verdict
The winner for the best Kenyan coffee brands is Volcanica Coffee’s Kenya Peaberry coffee! If you’re looking for a sweeter version of what Kenya has to offer, this might be your pick for you.
Prefer a bit more complexity in your cup? You might enjoy the sweet and spice notes of Equator Coffees Kenya Wachuri.
Each region and variety can lead to different flavor profiles, so keep trying out Kenyan beans and see which flavor you enjoy the most.