A beginners guide to coffee: Kenya AA

November 12, 2017

After spending some time exploring Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and Harrar, it’s time to head south and consider the contribution Kenya has made to the world of high-end coffees. Kenya AA often regarded as one of the best coffee beans in the world. Several factors such as growing conditions, processing, and grading all contribute to the inherent quality of these sought-after beans.

History and geography

 

Kenya-AA-Closeup

Despite the fact that coffee beans were first discovered in the neighboring Ethiopia many centuries ago, coffee production in Kenya only began at the turn of the 20th century. Since then Kenya has gone on to be the 21st largest producer of coffee in the world. The industry produces in excess of 51 million kilograms of coffee each year and employs over 6 million people.

 

Kenya-AA-fruit

The majority of Kenyan coffee is grown in the elevated areas between Mount Kenya in the north and the city of Nairobi in the southwest. The fertile volcanic soil in this region is ideal for growing coffee trees. In addition, the high altitude of 1,700 meters, the warm climate, and a perfect amount of rainfall are factors that contribute to the ideal growing conditions.

 

Kenya-AA-drying

Kenyan coffee is wet processed. This differs considerably from the dry process used in Ethiopia. With dry processing, the coffee fruit is left to dry in the sun. Once dried the skin is removed and the coffee is processed. In the case of wet processing, the fruit is removed prior to drying. The two processes have a huge effect on the overall taste of the coffee.

Kenya AA is not a specific type of coffee or an indicator of growing region.  Instead, it is the top tier of the Kenyan coffee grading system. Beans are graded when they are still green and there are a total of eight possible grades available. AA beans are the best available and each bean needs to match the requirements of the grade.

Flavor profile

 

Kenya-AA-espresso

The rigorous grading system employed by Kenyan coffee producers means that pretty much all Kenya AA coffee will have similar flavor characteristics. Kenya AA beans are regarded for their light body, bright mouthfeel, and intense floral taste. Along with the floral notes expect to taste hints of tropical fruit, berries, and wine. While the coffee can have a rich flavor, it is almost always tempered by a bright and refreshing acidity.

Finally, Kenya AA is known for its piquant and sweet aftertaste.

Food pairing

 

Kenya-AA-beans

Kenya AA is a versatile option for food pairing and the floral and fruity notes of the beans complement many tastes and flavors.

Kenya AA is always an ideal coffee to pair with a sweet pastry or donut. The fruity notes will really compliment the sugary sweetness of the pastries. On the savory side of things, try pairing some Kenya AA with a strong cheese. The sour notes of the cheese will pair beautifully with the coffee's acidity.

The floral notes of Kenya AA pair well with all manner of salads and soups. Try a zesty and tart salad with iced Kenya AA. Alternatively, a hot cup of coffee will be the ideal companion to a warm and spicy soup.

James Aitchison
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