Kenya is a coffee origin that constantly impresses us in its stellar cup profiles and continues to challenge us on the ground. We cup through hundreds of coffees throughout the season to curate a diverse and delicious portfolio.
About Kenya Nyala Kiambu AB Microlot Coffee
Located just north of Nairobi in Kiambu County at an altitude of around 1650 masl, Nyala Estate is one of the oldest coffee farms in the country. The county enjoys a warm climate with temperatures ranging between 12°C and 18.7°C, and the cool climate makes it ideal for coffee farming. June and July rank as the coldest months while January-March and September-October are the hottest months. The county is a leading innovative commercial hub that shares its borders with five other counties; Nakuru and Kajiado to the West, Murang’a and Nyandarua to the North and Nairobi to the South.
Kenya is a powerhouse coffee Origin and one that is dear to our hearts. Traditional production practices and attention to detail at the best mills and Estates flavour quality unparalleled in other coffee origins and the flavour profiles coming from the best lots can be sublime.
Kenya also has one of the most transparent and rigid buying systems in the world at the Nairobi auctions. There are a number of very well organised, established estates surrounding Nairobi - however the majority of supply comes from farmers organised into cooperative structures as the average farmer will typically have land of between 0.5 and 3 acres. By law in Kenya a farmer with under 5 acres must be organised into a cooperative.
Typically a Coop society may service a number of washing stations - each servicing there surrounding smallholder farmers to bring coffees to market. It is illegal to sell cherries to a middle man, so to finance, educate, and provide inputs and support to farmers, there are a group of ‘market agents’ who act as representatives to the farmer throughout the chain. These Market agents act as the dry mill partners, and will take their cooperative partner’s coffee through the auction system. Market agents cannot own coffee - they instead charge their partner’s fees for the service of milling, and a small percentage of auction prices once the coffee is sold. These agents are a very important step in connecting the farmer to the market - as it is their samples that are passed on to all exporters bidding at auction - and they along with farmer will set the reserve price at auction and will then negotiate with the end buyer if this reserve is not met.
There are around 15 truly active exporters in Kenya - however there are over 60 registered at auction. Each exporter will cup over 600 lots from the 10 active market agents before each week’s auction. Due to the traceability enforced by law of where each small lot comes from - exporters with experience know which Market agent, representing which society or mill, will produce certain qualities.
Exporters then go to the Nairobi auctions on a Tuesday, after extense cupping and select the lots they want to bid on, and compete with the other exporters to select the lots they want for their markets.
Coffee came to Nairobi in 1897 and was well cultivated in the next ten years. Around 1910 the colonists living outside Nairobi started to plant trees in areas like Kiambu and Thika. By 1920 coffee became Kenya’s main export crop. During the 1930s the coffee industry went through major changes as it went from being a colonial experiment to a major industry. They started to experiment with different marketing strategies and cooperative systems. Some of the planters started the Thika planters Cooperative Union that later became the Kenya Planters Cooperative Union. The KPCU became the dominant voice of the Kenyan coffee planters. They have played a major role as marketing agents and dry millers up to now, but have had some challenges in recent years, and in short went out of business a couple of years ago.
In 1932 the Coffee board of Kenya was established. They established the coffee auction in 1934. In the late 1940s they established a nationwide grading system and introduced the mechanical huller to remove the parchment.
In 1934 the colonial government allowed indigenous people to plant coffees under strict regulations, but it didn’t work well. From 1946 they encouraged Kenyans to start planting cash crops. After 1950 the smallholder sector picked up. After a while it dominated the KPCU. They started to build wetmills in the 1960s.
In 1978 the smallholder sector surpassed the large estates in terms of production, and still accounts for more than 50% of the total production.