Kenya and Its Outstanding Gourmet AA Coffee Beans

Introducing Kenya, one of the countries that produces the best coffee beans. They are recognized and highly sought after on the international market for their gourmet quality.

What is the Kenyan coffee like?

Kenyan coffee is known not only for its quality but also for the particular classification of its beans. As is well known, not all coffee beans are the same size, even if they come from the same plant. The climatic and geographical conditions in which the coffee plant grows also influence the outcome of the bean.

Nowadays, the quality of coffee is not only determined by its organoleptic characteristics. Physical characteristics such as size, weight, and shape are also important factors.

Accordingly, Kenya has developed two of its own scales for classifying beans. The first system is based on size, the second is a classification system in which points are assigned.

Coffee sorting in Kenya by size

The first classification is made by measuring the size of the beans. In this case, the larger beans are of better quality. This is because these beans contain a higher quantity and concentration of the oils that give coffee its flavor and aroma.

Below we will show you how the classification works.

E (Elephant)They are formed when the two beans contained in the fruit merge. This is a genetic defect of the coffee cherry. But that is exactly why they are the largest beans.
PBThese are the famous Peaberries. They are similar in size to the E’s and come from fruit that has only one bean. Only a small percentage of the total coffee harvest is of this variety, which is why they are so special.
AAIn this case, the fruit contains both coffee beans. These are the largest and best quality beans. Screens No. 17 and 18 are used for sorting.
ABThis is the combination of A and B beans. Screens No. 15 and 16 are used for sorting and they are also of very good quality.
CThey are sorted with meshes or screens No. 14 and 15.
TTAir is used to sort out the lightest beans from the E, AA, and AB beans. In the end, these are the TT.
TThese are small, broken or very thin beans. They are removed from the TT beans using air.
UG (ungraded)These are beans that do not meet any of the above criteria.

Kenyan coffee grading system

The other way to grade Kenyan coffee is to rate it by cup quality. A scale of 1 to 10 is used, with 1 representing the highest quality and 10 the worst.

Tasting notes

Due to the different types of coffee produced in Kenya, cupping notes are not always the same. However, they usually have common traits by which they are recognized. A Kenyan coffee cup has a very good body, bright acidity and fresh floral aroma. It has high sweetness and special notes of wine and citrus.

How is Kenyan coffee grown?

Coffee is one of Kenya’s most important agricultural products. This sector is characterized by being mainly composed of small farmers. They, in turn, are part of the various coffee cooperatives and associations. Unlike in other countries, coffee farmers in Kenya usually hand over the harvest to these companies or to third parties for production. This has several advantages. One is that they minimize their costs because they don’t have to invest time, money and equipment to process the coffee as well. In addition, the quality requirements of the cooperatives require the farmers to grow excellent coffee trees. This ensures that the quality and reputation of Kenyan coffee are maintained.

On the other hand, it is also geographically a privileged country for coffee cultivation. It is located in the east of Africa and its territory extends from the coasts of the Indian Ocean to the mountains and valleys in its interior. It is near the equator, and most of the coffee grown there is highland coffee. Coffee trees are planted in mountains between 1,200 and 2,000 meters (3,937 – 6,561 ft) above sea level and in tropical temperatures between 18 °C and 29 °C (64.4 – 84.2 °F). Most soils are of volcanic origin and rich in nutrients and minerals.

When the fruits are ready to be harvested, they are picked by hand. This means that every single product is carefully selected. Only the ripest and reddest ones in each case are harvested so that they later qualify for quality beans.

Production process

In Kenya, most production is concentrated in small cooperatives, but there are also large processing plants. When the coffee farmers have harvested the fruit, they sell it to one of them for further processing. Regardless of which processor it is sold to, the production process is clearly systematized.

The beans are dried in the sun using the wet process. When the beans get to the factory, they are first inspected and sorted. In this way, diseased, defective or unripe coffee cherries are sorted out. The outer skin and pulp are then removed. In this state, the remaining beans are ready to ferment in water for about 36 hours. This step removes the mucilage and they are then dried in the sun until they have the right moisture.

The remaining parchment must then also be removed. For this purpose, the beans are threshed. The result is green coffee. In the case of Kenya, however, it must be sorted before distribution. Here, the size of the beans is measured with different meshes or screens to determine which type it is. Only then can they be marketed and exported.

Coffee growing areas in Kenya

In Kenya, coffee is one of the most important export crops and products. As such, it is harvested in various locations in the country. The largest concentration of coffee plantations is in the center of the country, along the Rift Valley and on the slopes of Mount Kenya. However, there are also plantations in the west and south of the country.

In general, we can distinguish 5 coffee growing regions, namely Eastern Region, Central Region, Rift Valley Region, Western Region, and Nyanza Region. Let’s now take a look at each one of them.

Eastern Region

LocationThe region consists of Meru, Embu and Ukambani (Machakos and Makueni) counties.
Altitude1,220 to 1,800 meters above sea level.
Temperature23 °C to 29 °C.
Cup profileMedium acidity and body, balanced and soft feeling.

This region is made up of different counties in eastern Kenya. It is usually drier than other areas. However, there are coffee plantations on the eastern slopes of Mount Kenya and on the slopes of other mountains. The most important are Iveti, Nyambene, Mbooni and Kangundo. Coffee grows on deep, well-drained, red clay soils with excellent fertility.

Generally, coffee is grown at high altitudes. Although there is also cultivation at altitudes close to 1,200 m above sea level, most farms are located above 1,600 m above sea level. The soils are not of volcanic origin, so the coffee has very characteristic traits of the region. It has a medium body and acidity and its notes are rather spicy. Its flavor has spicy and nutty notes.

Central Region

LocationThe region includes the counties of Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga and Muranga.
AltitudeFrom 1,220 to 1,890 meters above sea level.
TemperatureBetween 18° C and 27° C.
Cup profileGood body, bright acidity and sweet notes.

The central region of Kenya is one of the most important coffee-growing areas. It accounts for about 80% of the harvest and is located in a privileged area. Geographically, several of its counties are located in parts of the Great Rift Valley and Mount Kenya. The latter is the most influential in the region, offering rich volcanic soils and ideal temperatures. Although there are cooperatives that grow at an altitude of 1,220 meters above sea level, most are located at an altitude of 1,600 meters and up to 1,800 meters above sea level. Therefore, coffee of excellent quality is produced at high altitudes.

One of the counties in this region, Kiambu, is even called the Brazil of Kenya. This is because it is a very productive area where large coffee processing companies and cooperatives are located.

The flavors in the cup are very different, but all have a citrus note. It is a coffee with fruit, herbal, chocolate and vanilla aromas and the traditional Kenyan note of wine.

Rift Valley Region

LocationNakuru, Nandi, Kipkelion, Trans-Nzoia and Baringo.
Altitude1,700 to 1,950 meters above sea level.
Temperature22 °C to 26 °C
Cup profileFull to medium body with medium acidity and a creamy, delicate flavor.

The Rift Valley is truly one of the wonders of Africa and Kenya is one of the countries through which it passes. It is a large geological fault that, in the case of coffee, provides the perfect place for its development. The plantations are located at higher altitudes than in other regions and on young soils of volcanic origin. They are particularly fertile and rich in nutrients.

The coffee from this region has a medium acidity, but a very good body. Its notes are fruity, chocolaty and sometimes a little citrus.

Western Region

LocationBungoma, Vihiga and Kakamega.
Altitude1,500 to 1,900 meters above sea level.
Temperature19 °C average
Cup profileFull body, variable acidity and sweet or citrus notes.

In this part of Kenya, much of the coffee production is located on Mount Elgon. It is an extinct shield volcano, meaning it is wider than it is high and shares the area with Uganda. The fertile, volcanic soils contribute to successful coffee cultivation. 

Another coffee-growing area in this region is Vihiga. In general, it is a small production, but it has excellent soils, light, temperature and the right amount of rainfall.

The coffee produced in this region has good acidity. In some parts, it is lighter, in others more citrusy. It has a good body and both fruity and citrus notes.

 Nyanza Region

LocationLocated in the southwest of Kenya, it includes the counties of Kisii, Nyamira, Migori and Kisumu.
Altitude1,400 to 1,700 meters above sea level.
Temperature24 °C to 28 °C
Cup profileMedium acidity and body, with light fruity notes.

The largest and most developed county in this region is Kisii. Since coffee has high productivity, it is an important industry for this region. The crops are grown on small farms in the mountains where the Gussi, an ethnic group from Kisii, live. 

This area is very special because it resembles the Blue Mountains in Jamaica. Blue Mountain coffee is also grown and produced in this region. However, in much smaller quantities than in Jamaica and with less notoriety.

Although their Blue Mountain is not as well known, the coffee has similarities to Jamaican coffee. It produces a full-bodied cup with medium acidity and a smooth, creamy taste. It has a sweet taste with hints of nuttiness and mild fruity notes.

Coffee varieties grown in Kenya

The coffee varieties grown in Kenya are Arabica and Robusta. However, the first make up the majority. A peculiarity of Kenyan coffee is that most of them are hybrids. Let’s take a closer look at this topic…

  • SL28: It was developed at the National Agricultural Research Laboratory in Kabete, Kenya. It is an ideal variety because it can be planted in medium and high altitudes. It also has strong roots that reach deeper into the soil. This allows it to absorb more water in some of the drier areas of the country. It is also more hardy.
  • SL34: It was developed by the same laboratory and has very similar characteristics to SL28. It gives a very good quality coffee, but it is a little more vulnerable to diseases and pests.
  • Ruiru 11: A hybrid between Catimor and other multicrosses like N39, SL28, etc. It is a favorite for several reasons. First, it is of very good quality, so it produces an excellent cherry. Second, it grows smaller and the plant is more compact. This allows more coffee trees to be planted per unit area. This increases productivity and brings many other benefits to coffee growers. It is also more rust tolerant and resistant to coffee cherry disease.
  • Batian: It was developed by the Coffee Research Institute in Kenya. It is really new and was introduced in 2010. It is very productive and resistant to coffee cherry disease and rust. Unlike the other hybrids and varieties, Batian bears fruit already in the second year instead of the third.
  • K7: This is a variety selected by the French Mission and has a similar genetic background to the Bourbon variety. It is a tall plant and bears large fruits. Its advantages are good cup quality, high productivity and, above all, tolerance to rust and coffee cherry disease. However, it is susceptible to nematodes.

Robusta is also grown, but only in small quantities and in wetter, lower-lying areas.

What makes Kenyan coffee so special?

Kenya is one of the African countries located near the equator. That and its geographical features provide ideal conditions for coffee cultivation. Not only because the coffee tree can grow, but also because it can develop its best characteristics.

Much of the land used for growing coffee is located near Mount Kenya. This is the highest mountain in the country and the second-highest in Africa. The other growing areas are also generally above 1,300 meters above sea level, so the Kenyan coffee area is generally high.

On the other hand, the Kenyan territory includes part of the Great Rift Valley. Its lake system has even been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. But besides lakes, there are also volcanoes. Therefore, it has the ideal soils to develop the best characteristics of the coffee tree. Its volcanic origin contains many nutrients and minerals that improve the taste of coffee. This also allows for more natural growth without the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

In Kenya, coffee is grown in unique varieties. Unlike other countries, Kenya does not usually grow the typical varieties such as Caturra, Catuai, Mundo Novo or Gesha. This is not to say that these are inferior, of course; in fact, they are known to be excellent. However, the varieties grown in Kenya have their own unique traits. The result is a cup with a delicious aroma, a good body and a Kenyan acidity.

In addition, the sorting system ensures that only the best beans are selected. That is why you will always find a Kenya AA coffee on the list of the highest quality and best beans.

The 9 best coffees in Kenya

After this great tour of Kenya, it’s time to see what coffees you can try. We have compiled the 9 best Kenyan coffees on the market.

Volcanica Coffee Kenya AA Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Fruity with notes of blueberries, raspberries and flowers.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

It comes from the mountains of Nyeri, where it was grown in the best geographical and climatic conditions. For this reason, this AA bean coffee is considered one of the best. Besides its excellent quality, its pleasant taste and aroma. It is characterized by its sweetness, good body and fruity and vinous notes.

Volcanica Coffee Kenya Peaberry Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Fruity and citrusy.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

Since Kenya is a coffee country known for its various types of high-quality beans, we couldn’t leave out the Peaberry. This coffee is very special, not only because about 5% of the beans in a harvest are Peaberry, but also because of its taste. It has a very strong body, strong acidity and fruity notes. It also has the traditional citrus note of Kenyan coffees.

Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC Kenya AA Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Black tea, orange peel and peach blossom.

Roasting degree: Medium-dark.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This Kenya AA coffee is definitely one of the best. According to the Kenyan classification system, it is the largest and best quality. It was grown in the fertile soils of Nyeri County. It has a soft body with medium acidity and the citrus and vinous notes typical of Kenyan coffees. Its sweetness and fruity notes also make for a delicious cup of coffee.

Koffee Kult Kenya Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Green apple, black tea and raspberry.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This is a clear example of a coffee of excellent quality from a high altitude. It was grown at over 1,400 meters above sea level and on fertile volcanic soils. It is characterized by a full-bodied cup with the typical sweetness of Kenyan AA coffees. It also has aromatic fruit and black tea notes that add to its specialness.

Screen 18 Kenya AA Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Fruity, berry.

Roasting degree: Medium-dark.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This is also an AA-rated coffee of excellent quality. It was grown at an altitude of more than 1,800 meters above sea level, so it grew much slower and absorbed more nutrients. Thanks to this, it is a coffee with a very good body, wine-like acidity, pleasant aroma and sweet fruity notes. The medium-dark roast brings out these qualities even better.

Java House Kenya AA Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Black currant and grapefruit.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

Nothing beats a real Kenyan coffee. Java House offers a premium coffee grown in the best altitudes and volcanic soils of Kenya. It has a guarantee of origin that ensures the authenticity of Kenyan coffee beans. The result is a superb cup with notes of citrus and fruit typical of the region, as well as a mild sweetness.

Climb’s Roast Kenya AA Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Fruity.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This is another excellent opportunity to try an authentic Kenyan AA coffee. It has been roasted to the ideal point to extract the best flavors and aromas. The cup has low acidity, a light body, and the fruity and vinous notes typical of Kenyan coffee.

Café Amador Kenya AA Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Cherry, tangerine, dark chocolate and plum.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This coffee comes from Kirinyaga, located on the slopes of Mount Kenya. So it was grown on the best soils and at the perfect altitude. It is a washed coffee, usually roasted to order. To preserve the freshness of the coffee, Café Amador roasts it in small batches just before delivery.

Good as Gold Kenya AA Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Apricot, citrus and fruit.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This coffee is not only of the highest quality of type AA, but has also undergone a demanding roasting process. Good as Gold is characterized by roasting the coffee to the ideal point, but with air. This avoids burning the beans, but in the process extracts the flavor and aroma of the coffee much better.


As we have seen, Kenya is one of the leading countries in the world for its excellent quality coffee. It produces gourmet and Premium beans with tasting notes that are highly sought after by coffee connoisseurs.

So, we hope that after this comprehensive overview of Kenyan coffee, you will have an urge to taste it. 

And if one country’s coffee is not enough for you, we have more recommendations: