9 Best Kenyan Coffees: Which Kenyan Coffee Should You Buy?

When it comes to a coffee region that can produce top premium gourmet coffee with consistency, coffee snobs will navigate you to Kenya. It’s a famous coffee region for a well-developed palate as the Kenyan coffee beans house a full spectrum of flavors and nuances. If you’re searching for the best Kenyan coffee, here are our recommended picks for the best Kenyan coffee beans for you.

What is a Kenyan Coffee?

Fincas in the Kenyan slopes’ mountainside cultivate their Arabica coffee beans in growing altitudes between 1,700 and 1,800 meters (roughly 5800 ft). By November and December, coffee farmers can harvest and process the beans-thoroughly washing and sun-drying the beans on raised beds. 

Generally, Kenyan coffee is known for its rich and decadent body with hints of bergamot, berries, and lemongrass. The Kenyan cup is bright and has a pleasingly fresh, floral aroma. Yet, if you’re on the lookout for Kenya’s finest coffee beans, you’d better start looking for beans from the following growing regions: Nyeri Region and Nyeri Ichamara.

Nyeri Region

The Nyeri Region is known as the “Heart of the Black Gold Coffee.” The  beans from this coffee growing region display an intense flavor that develops slowly as the beans mature. They have a balanced taste profile and acidity adorned with crisp, fruity undertones. 

The coffee beans’ taste profile is distinct to the Nyeri region as the coffee beans are cultivated in the highland fincas situated between Mt. Kenyan’s western slopes and the Aberdare Ranges eastern base. 

Other factors contributing to the coffee beans’ remarkable flavors are the young volcanic soil used by coffee fincas to grow the Arabica plants. Likewise, this area’s unique weather enables the coffee beans to develop distinct flavors that make the coffee beans from the Nyeri district bold and strong.

Nyeri Ichamara

The coffee beans from Nyeri Ichamara are nearly opposite to the beans of Nyeri district. Nyeri Ichamara coffee is characterized as vibrant, complex, and sweet-toned. It’s a wet-processed Kenyan coffee and exhibits a balanced body and floral fragrance. Most coffee beans from this region have hints of black currant or tart citrus, which are often described as tropically pleasant.

Another characteristic of this Kenya coffee from Nyeri Ichamara is low acidity

Where Does Kenyan Coffee Come From?

kenya map image

Coffee was brought by missionaries during the British colony in 1893 from the Reunion Island to the Kenyan soil. The British colonized the country in 1895 taking over all over crop management- including coffee. In those times, Kenya became one of the leading exporters of gourmet coffee around the world. 

It wasn’t until 1960 when Kenyan farmers began to take ownership of coffee growing and manufacturing. Yet, coffee making restrictions were still imposed by the government. Changes took shape when brave Kenyans embraced bold reforms that allowed them to freely produce and manufacture their desired products.

At present, the Kenya Coffee Producers Association regulates the coffee industry in Kenya by protecting and expanding the coffee farmers’ socio-economic welfare. 

Kenya AA

A lot of coffee drinkers are confused by the Kenya AA description. They mistake it for a variety or species. Some believe it to be a coffee region, while others think it is a brand of Kenyan coffee. None of these are correct!   Kenya AA is a standard given to the best Kenya coffee beans. So how would you know if your Kenya roast is graded Kenya AA?

If you find a coffee brand labeled “Kenya AA” it means that the coffee bean belongs to the Kenyan coffee grading system’s top tier. Kenyan AA coffee beans are described as broad coffee beans that contain the largest amount of flavorful oils and nuances, which are graded after they are milled.

Just as Hawaii has 100% Kona, Kenya has Kenya AA. Both are highly celebrated in their respective regions and are evaluated several times to ensure their quality. Yet, there’s a big difference in how Kenya coffee is graded compared to Kona coffee. 

Kenyan coffee beans are  graded while still green. Kenya coffee farmers base the coffee beans’ grades on its physical parameters with the belief that the bigger the bean, the more oils there’ll be. To guide you in choosing the best Kenya coffee, we shared below the grading system used on Kenya coffees.

  • AA – Screen 18
  • AB – Screen 16
  • C – Screen 15/10 (also referred as T-grade)
  • PB – Peaberry Screen 12
  • E – Elephants Screen 20 (from a coffee cherry with two seeds joined together.)
  • Cereza de Cafe

After the evaluation, both AA and AB coffee beans are processed in the gravity tables to determine the beans’ density one more time. The same procedure is also applied to C-grade coffees. 

Kenyan History & Politics

Ever since Kenya achieved independence from Great Britain in 1963, the Kenyan government is still marked with periods of political and socio-economic turmoil. Kenya may be experiencing slow, steady growth, but citizens are starting to call out the government’s attention to address critical issues that hinder the continued development in Kenya. Such problems are political instability, corruption, and aging infrastructures, especially transportation. 

Kenya considers coffee its primary cash crop with coffee plants cultivated by both small and large scale coffee plantations in terms of agriculture. Its main variety of coffee is Arabica. To be specific, most fincas use Kenya coffee varietals such as SL34, SL28, Ruiru 11, K7, and Batian.

Before the end of the Colonial era, Kenya’s coffee industry was already organized with a weekly government-run auction system. Such an approach was developed after the 1933 Coffee Act -a measure that transferred the control over sales of coffee from London to Kenya. This system enabled the government to establish a pricing hierarchy based on quality. Meaning, the higher the quality, the higher the prices fetched. 

New legislation was also passed in late 2006 to address the direct negotiation between the producers and the buyers. Likewise, the government provided 30 independent marketing agents with a license to sell coffee beans directly to foreign coffee buyers, which bypasses the auction system. Yet, specific criteria must be met before an agent is awarded a license, which includes a bank guarantee that farmers will be paid fair.

Kenyan Coffee Facts

Here are some  quick Kenyan coffee facts to get you acquainted with the coffee culture in Kenya.

  • All Kenyan coffee is grown in highlands rich in volcanic soil.
  • To buy Kenyan green coffee, you have to participate in a coffee auction held at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
  • Kenya’s key coffee growing regions are Nyeri, Embu, Kirinyaga, Murang’ a Meru & Kiambu, and Marsabit.
  • Kenya placed 17th in world coffee exporter rankings.
  • The Kenyan government invests in coffee education to address the lack of knowledge about coffee being passed down from generation to generation. 
  • The Dedan Kimathi University of Technology offers certificate and diploma courses for Coffee Technology and Quality Management as well as Diploma in Coffee Technology and cupping.

Our Favorite Kenyan Coffees

Volcanica Kenyan AA

The Kenyan AA coffee blend roasted by Volcanica is a famous single-origin coffee known for its rich body, pleasant brightness, lingering aroma, and winey aftertaste. It is a medium roast East African coffee with a plump and velvety mouthfeel and a sweet, gentle finish. 

Volcanica Kenyan AA Coffee (16oz)
$19.99

Kenya AA Coffee has a reputation as a top quality coffee producer that is unsurpassed. This meticulously prepared East African coffee is famous for its rich body, pleasant vibrant acidity, fragrant aroma and winy aftertaste with overtones of berries and citrus. From the Nyeri Hill Estate in Nyeri County.

  • Medium Roast
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified


CUP NOTES: Crisply sweet/savory; delicate yet resonant.

FLAVOR NOTES: flowers in aroma and cup. Sweetly and lightly tart in structure with a savory edge; light but impressively plump and satiny in mouthfeel. Flavor consolidates around raspberry and alyssum in a sweet, gently drying finish.

COFFEE PROCESSING: Washed

DRYING: Sun

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Fresh Roasted Kenya AA

The Kenya AA coffee of Fresh Roasted LLC is Kosher-certified and sustainably sourced directly from family-owned coffee farms in Kenya. It’s a smooth, full-bodied coffee that doesn’t need any accompaniment because it’s already bursting in flavor. Coffee drinkers will find this blend to be a strong coffee. Yet, it doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste.

Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC | Kenya AA | 12oz
$13.95

This African coffee is bright, complex, exceptionally sweet, and shares a perfect balance and floral fragrance that most wet-processed Kenyan coffees possess. Our Kenya AA coffee has less of an acidic "bite" than other African coffees, allowing those who prefer lower levels of coffee acidity to experience the dynamic wine-like brilliance, fragrant fruit notes, and silky body of our Kenya AA coffee.

Hand-picked coffee cherries are delivered to the wet mill the same day they are harvested. Cherry sorting is carried out at the mill, followed by wet processing, followed by sun-drying on raised tables. The coffee beans then proceed to the dry mill for secondary processing.

Bungowa County AA coffee is grown by small holders, generally with less than 200 trees each, delivering fresh coffee cherries to cooperative mills.

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Fresh Roasted Dark Kenya AA

The Dark roast Kenya AA coffee is rich in body, sweet-toned, and has savory floral notes. The acidity is just right with tell-tale fruit and wine-like flavors you’ll taste in-between. The coffee beans are very dark and oily and are highly recommended for a cold brew, while others prefer it as their morning cup.

Dark Roast Kenya AA
Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC | Dark Roast Kenya AA | 12 oz
$13.95

Our Dark Kenya AA coffee is a rich and sweet dark roast with savory floral notes and balanced acidity at a deeper roast level. The body of this coffee is extra bold but also bright, allowing for the tell-tale fruit and wine-like flavors of our wet-processed Dark Kenyan coffee to shine through. 

Hand-picked coffee cherries are delivered to the wet mill the same day they are harvested. Cherry sorting is carried out at the mill, followed by wet processing, followed by sun-drying on raised tables. The coffee beans then proceed to the dry mill for secondary processing.

Bungowa County AA coffee is grown by small holders, generally with less than 200 trees each, delivering fresh coffee cherries to cooperative mills.

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Volcanica Kenyan Peaberry

The Volcanica Kenyan Peaberry is a full-bodied, complex coffee with decadent winey flavors of black currant and alternating spices of Kenya AA that is pleasant to the palate. What makes this coffee blend special is that it is a micro-lot medium roast with a fair amount of minerality and citrus, berry-like aftertaste.

Volcanica Coffee Kenya Peaberry (16oz)
$18.99

Kenya Peaberry Coffee is a full-bodied, sharp acidity with the winy flavor of black currants. Kenya Peaberry is incredibly complex, and has an interesting fruit (berry, citrus) flavors, sometimes alternating with spice so well known by the Kenyan coffees. This is a special Micro-lot purchase.

Only 5 percent of the coffee bean crop are Kenya Peaberry coffee beans.

  • Micro-lot
  • Medium roast
  • Fair Trade Certified


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Volcanica Kenyan AA Decaf

This decaffeinated version of Volcanica Kenya AA has a reputation for its creamy body and pleasant acidity. It has an aromatic floral scent and a winey aftertaste. The decaf Kenya AA coffee has enjoyable raspberry and cranberry notes with a sweet and gentle, drying finish of raspberry and alyssum.

Swiss Water Decaf Kenyan Coffee
Volcanica Coffee Decaf Kenya AA (16oz)
$24.99

Kenya Decaf Coffee version of this fine single origin coffee. It has a reputation as a top quality coffee producer that is unsurpassed. This meticulously prepared East African coffee is famous for its rich body, pleasant vibrant acidity, fragrant aroma and winy aftertaste with overtones of berries and citrus. Now back in stock after a 3 year hiatus!

The decaffeination process uses SWISS WATER,  is a taste-driven, 100% chemical free decaffeination process that delivers coffee that is 99.9% caffeine-free while protecting the unique origin characteristics and flavor for this Kenya Decaf Coffee. Most other processes use chemical solvents, like Methylene Chloride or Ethyl Acetate to decaffeinate coffee beans. This process maintains a clean original taste for our Kenya Decaf Coffee.

CUP NOTES: Crisply sweet/savory; delicate yet resonant.

FLAVOR NOTES: Raspberry, cranberry, fresh-cut redwood, alyssum-like flowers in aroma and cup. Sweetly and lightly tart in structure with a savory edge; light but impressively plump and satiny in mouthfeel. Flavor consolidates around raspberry and alyssum in a sweet, gently drying finish.

COFFEE PROCESSING: Washed

DRYING: Sun

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Subculture Coffee Roasters Black Lives Matter Kenya Gatubu Coffee

The Subculture Coffee Roaster BLM coffee features the Kenya Gatubu coffee beans. It’s a fully washed Kenya coffee with hints of simple syrup, peach, cola, and lemonade notes. When you buy this coffee blend, 20% of the profit goes to the Corey Jones Foundation, supporting and honors a Palm Beach, Florida local musician who was shot dead in 2015.

Black Lives Matter
Subculture Coffee Roasters | Black Lives Matter Kenya Gatubu Coffee |
$18.00

Our special edition, BLM Coffee is Kenya Gatubu and goes through Fully Washed Processing. Notes of Simple Syrup, Cola, Peach, and Lemonade. 

20% from each bag purchased goes to the Corey Jones Foundation. The Corey Jones Foundation was established to promote scholarships and honors the memory of a Palm Beach Florida local musician who was shot to death by a plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer as he waited for roadside assistance in the overnight hours of Oct. 18, 2015.

Notes of Simple Syrup, Cola, Peach, and Lemonade. 

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Fresh Roasted Dark Kenya AA Pods

The Dark Kenya AA roast by Fresh Roasted LLC comes in coffee pods for your Keurig. This coffee blend has palatable cup notes of extra bold peach and citrus. The coffee beans are cultivated from the fincas located at the Bungoma County, Kenya, at 1,300 to 1,500 meters. The beans are fully-washed and dried on raised beds.

Kenya AA Pods
Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC | Kenya AA Pods | 18ct
$11.95

Our Dark Kenya AA coffee is a rich and sweet dark roast with savory floral notes and balanced acidity at a deeper roast level. The body of this coffee is extra bold but also bright, allowing for the tell-tale fruit and wine-like flavors of our wet-processed Dark Kenyan coffee to shine through. 

Hand-picked coffee cherries are delivered to the wet mill the same day they are harvested. Cherry sorting is carried out at the mill, followed by wet processing, followed by sun-drying on raised tables. The coffee beans then proceed to the dry mill for secondary processing.

Bungowa County AA coffee is grown by small holders, generally with less than 200 trees each, delivering fresh coffee cherries to cooperative mills.

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Coopers Coffee Co – Barrel-Aged Kenya AA

The Barrel-Aged Kenya AA by Coopers Coffee Co is an exciting coffee blend in our top picks. The beans are Graded 1 for its high taste profile and roasted in a Chardonnay wine barrel. When you brew this coffee, you’ll taste the unique coffee flavors of Kenya AA and the subtle wine flavors. The coffee exhibits a full body cup notes with hints of honeysuckle nectar and a slightly sweet finish.

Barrel-Aged Kenyan
Coopers Coffee Co | Barrel-Aged Kenya Coffee | 12oz
$29.95

CHARDONNAY PAIRED WITH SINGLE ORIGIN KENYA BEANS: A subtle tartness of green apples and green grape skins. A full body coffee that finishes slightly sweet with notes of honey suckle nectar.

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Coopers Dark Roast Single Origin Kenya

Coopers Cask Coffee also offers a medium-dark roast Kenya AA single-origin. It has a taste profile of honey wheat, molasses biscuit, and bitter-sweet chocolate. It’s a micro-lot single-origin coffee from Kenya of the Bourbon varietal so expect a combination of tart and dark fruit undertones in every sip.

Coopers Coffee Co | Single Origin Kenya Med Roast | 12 oz
$17.95

Kenya AA Medium-Dark Roast Coffee Beans, Micro Lot Single Origin Whole Bean Coffee, Farm Gate Direct Trade, Gourmet Coffee - 12 oz Bag

VIBRANT TASTE PROFILE: Honey wheat, bitter sweet chocolate, molasses biscuit

MICRO LOT SINGLE-ORIGIN COFFEE: We select only the highest grade, Kenya AA of the Bourbon varietal. These beans exhibit a great combination of tart and dark fruit notes. The aromas have a molasses honey wheat tea biscuit like scent. It is roasted to a slightly darker medium roast to bring out a bitter sweet chocolate and dark cherry fruited sweetness.


QUALITY SOURCED BEANS: We profile each lot of Organic, Fair Trade, or Farm Gate Coffee Beans (grade 1). If it doesn't meet our high standards it is not used.


SMALL BATCH ROASTERS: Our premium coffee beans are artfully roasted in small batches to ensure fresh delivery of recent roasts. This gives us full control of the profile and creates a bold, smooth, flavorful coffee.


WICKED GOOD GUARANTEED: If for any reason you’re not satisfied with our imported, high-end coffee beans, just let us know within 30 days for a full refund.

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Our Favorites

Choosing the best Kenyan coffee can be daunting, especially if there’s a lot to choose from. Big Cup of Coffee hopes you find our categorization system helpful. We’ve selected our favorites based on customer service, quality, and social mission. Please let us know if there’s a roaster we’re missing. We’d love to expand our network.

Best Overall – Volcanica

Volcanica Kenya AA is our best overall Kenyan coffee. It’s a medium roast cultivated from the Nyeri Hill Estate in Nyeri County, famous for the beans’ intense flavor, vibrance, and crispy, fruity undertones. This Volcanica Kenyan coffee blend is also a Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Volcanica Kenyan AA Coffee (16oz)
$19.99

Kenya AA Coffee has a reputation as a top quality coffee producer that is unsurpassed. This meticulously prepared East African coffee is famous for its rich body, pleasant vibrant acidity, fragrant aroma and winy aftertaste with overtones of berries and citrus. From the Nyeri Hill Estate in Nyeri County.

  • Medium Roast
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified


CUP NOTES: Crisply sweet/savory; delicate yet resonant.

FLAVOR NOTES: flowers in aroma and cup. Sweetly and lightly tart in structure with a savory edge; light but impressively plump and satiny in mouthfeel. Flavor consolidates around raspberry and alyssum in a sweet, gently drying finish.

COFFEE PROCESSING: Washed

DRYING: Sun

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Best Decaf – Volcanica Kenyan AA Decaf

You can never go wrong with decaffeinated coffee from Volcanica as these are processed using the Swiss Water Method. Even though 97% to 99% of caffeine content is removed from the coffee beans, the Kenyan AA’s taste profile remains so you can still enjoy this delicious roast without the jitters to care.

Swiss Water Decaf Kenyan Coffee
Volcanica Coffee Decaf Kenya AA (16oz)
$24.99

Kenya Decaf Coffee version of this fine single origin coffee. It has a reputation as a top quality coffee producer that is unsurpassed. This meticulously prepared East African coffee is famous for its rich body, pleasant vibrant acidity, fragrant aroma and winy aftertaste with overtones of berries and citrus. Now back in stock after a 3 year hiatus!

The decaffeination process uses SWISS WATER,  is a taste-driven, 100% chemical free decaffeination process that delivers coffee that is 99.9% caffeine-free while protecting the unique origin characteristics and flavor for this Kenya Decaf Coffee. Most other processes use chemical solvents, like Methylene Chloride or Ethyl Acetate to decaffeinate coffee beans. This process maintains a clean original taste for our Kenya Decaf Coffee.

CUP NOTES: Crisply sweet/savory; delicate yet resonant.

FLAVOR NOTES: Raspberry, cranberry, fresh-cut redwood, alyssum-like flowers in aroma and cup. Sweetly and lightly tart in structure with a savory edge; light but impressively plump and satiny in mouthfeel. Flavor consolidates around raspberry and alyssum in a sweet, gently drying finish.

COFFEE PROCESSING: Washed

DRYING: Sun

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Best Social Mission – Subculture Coffee Roasters Black Lives Matter Kenya Gatubu Coffee

Not only will you taste the Kenya Gatubu coffee beans, but it will also benefit the people supported by the Corey Jones Foundation. This coffee blend has a juicy taste of lemonade, simple syrup, peach, and cola without the usual fruity acidity frequent in Kenyan AA grade coffee beans.

Black Lives Matter
Subculture Coffee Roasters | Black Lives Matter Kenya Gatubu Coffee |
$18.00

Our special edition, BLM Coffee is Kenya Gatubu and goes through Fully Washed Processing. Notes of Simple Syrup, Cola, Peach, and Lemonade. 

20% from each bag purchased goes to the Corey Jones Foundation. The Corey Jones Foundation was established to promote scholarships and honors the memory of a Palm Beach Florida local musician who was shot to death by a plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer as he waited for roadside assistance in the overnight hours of Oct. 18, 2015.

Notes of Simple Syrup, Cola, Peach, and Lemonade. 

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Conclusion

Kenyan coffee has a charm that captivates coffee drinkers. The beans are cultivated only in highlands with a climate suitable for growing coffee. Farmers employ a uniform method of processing the coffee beans to achieve that full spectrum of flavors you’ll not find in other coffee beans. 

Such taste profiles and cup differences were revealed by the Kenyan government’s dedication to bettering their coffee production. They’ve addressed legacy issues so that coffee farmers can pass their plantations to their next of kin and keep their age old traditions and methodology alive and well. They’ve invested in education to ensure that Kenya will remain one of the top exporters of premium gourmet coffee in the world.

Have you tried a Kenyan AA coffee? How do you describe its taste? What do you like about coffee from Kenya? Please share with us your Kenyan coffee thoughts at the comments below.

Dave Hoch

Dave Hoch

Author

Gregariously grounded, whimsically witty, and remarkably resolved. Big lover of adventure and all things related to traveling by bike. Can't go a day without a coffee, even if it's decaf.

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