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History of Kenyan Coffee

The birth place of coffee is relatively close to Kenya but getting it there was not an easy task and full of bloodshed. The Arabs who controlled coffee enslaved thousands of Kenyan's where they worked on the coffee plantations in Kenya and Arabia. This was followed by the British settlers around 1900 who quickly assumed control over the country which led to more bloodshed.

In the first part of the 20th century the interior was settled by British and European farmers who became rich by farming coffee on the backs of the Kenyan workers. By the 1930's the farmers powers had become very strong. Even with over 1 million Kikuyu tribe members calling it home they had now real land claims according to the Europeans.

To protect their interest the wealthy Europeans banned them from growing coffee, introduced a hut tax and gave them less and less for their labor. The Kikuyu were forced to leave their land and go to the cities in order to survive. This legal slavery of the population continued until the century until the British relinquished control in 1960. Despite all this bloodshed and slavery Kenya coffee has flourished and is among one of the finest cups in the world.
All Kenya coffee grown is Arabica coffee grown on the rich volcanic soil that is found in the highlands of the country. Today around 250,000 Kenyans are employed in the production of coffee. Most is produced by small land holders that are members of cooperatives that process their own coffee. Still, even with this Kenya coffee's specialty status Kenya coffee farmers still remain among the poorest in the world. In 2001 a farmer producing 1,007 kg crop would only earn £20.14 for his labor, that same coffee is available at specialty stores for $10 + per pound.

Recently Kenya farmers have introduced the Ruiru 11 hybrid plant and it is causing concern amongst true Kenya coffee lovers. This is because it may lack the traditional Kenya coffee attributes that coffee aficionados love. The Kenya Coffee Board is trying to promote Ruiru 11 as an alternative to the farmers but their efforts are overshadowed by the rumors that it tastes like a low grade coffee from a different country. History will have to be the judge to see who is correct.

Kenya coffee has a bright acidity and a wonderful sweetness with a dry winy aftertaste. A really good Kenya coffee will also have a black-current flavor and aroma. Some of the worlds finest coffees come from Kenya and as a single origin coffee it wins praise at the cupping table. Kenya has this level of quality through a government-run system that offers rewards to farmers for producing better quality coffee. This policy has lead to steady improvements and consistent improvements in the cups quality. Each lot of Kenya coffee, if it is from a large farm or a small co-op has to undergo rigorous testing for quality by the Coffee Board of Kenya.

Coffee is one of the most important cash crops in Kenya. It is grown in large scale plantations (42,000 ha from 2001-2005) as well as by small scale holders (128,000 ha from 2001-2005) giving a total production of about 50,000 tons annually. The main variety in Kenya is Arabica coffee. The stimulating effect of the coffee beverage is largely derived from the alkaloid caffeine, but cured beans have to be roasted and finely ground to bring out the characteristic coffee aroma. In some producer countries, roasting of locally available coffee in the home is very common and the brew is prepared by pouring hot water over freshly roasted and ground coffee beans.

An important constituent of the coffee bean is caffeine. The free caffeine content in a bean is dependant on the coffee type, variety, the site conditions and other factors, and can be more than 2.5%. Economically, the most important coffee varieties are Coffea arabica called Arabica and Coffea canephora called Robusta. In comparison with Arabica, almost 30 % higher yields are gained from Robusta, although the price is around 30% lower. Coffee is mainly grown as a beverage, though the plant residues can provide fuel (coffee charcoal or wood) and a good mulch. Until now, organic cultivation has been of less importance in such regions as Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique. It is mostly organic .Arabica that is being cultivated.Robusta is currently barely available in certified organic quality.

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