Kenya: A Coffee Powerhouse - Drink Day with Elizabetta Tekeste

Welcome back coffee drinkers everywhere! This week we're traveling to the Republic of Kenya, the "place with ostriches (1)" and great coffee. Although late to coffee (cultivation began around 17th century compared to Ethiopia's start in the 15th century), Kenya is a coffee powerhouse to be reckoned with. From production to processing, Kenya often sets the standard by paying attention to detail along the way to a great bean. Time to go cherry picking! The Bean:

The rich, acidic soil in the mountains of Kenya produces a version of the Arabica bean that is distinctly different from Ethiopia's. Grown 5000-7000 feet above sea level Kenyan coffee is laced with notes of varied and tropical fruits like watermelon, pineapple, kiwi and the sweetness of honey.  The moderate climate and regular rainfall contribute to an ideal location to grow coffee making it a significant export(2) and employing over 5 million people in the country. But Kenya doesn't just produce coffee, its produces some of the best in the world also known as the peaberry variety. So, what exactly is the peaberry? It is a product of nature, not demographic region. Simply put when coffee matures the beans splits in half this is what most people have come to know as the coffee bean. However, about 5% of the time the bean does not split and what you have are complete beans in the shape of a pea, hence the "peaberry".  Coffee connoisseurs agree the peaberry variety makes the best coffee, but why it tastes better is often a topic for discussion. Some believe it is because the nutrients are packed into the whole bean, others make the compelling argument that roasting is more evenly distributed on a whole bean. In any case, once you've tried a peaberry variety you'll agree the flavor is considerably more intense. Because it is rare and yields a superior coffee the peaberry demands the highest market price at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.


Cultivation is part of what produces a great bean. Playing an equal part in the outcome is the processing. Kenya takes great pride in how they process their beans ensuring they create a high demand for the one million bags of coffee they produce each year. Approximately 95% of the beans are wet-processed a process that is both labor intensive and a labor of love.

The stages include:

1)    Selection/sorting- diseased, ripe/under ripe cherries are removed here (see image).

2)    Pulping- the outer skin of the cherries is removed.

3)    Grading- according to size, shape and weight of the bean.

4)    Soaking- in water tanks where natural fermentation removes the residual cherry from the beans (double fermentation is common to remove all mucilage for a better tasting bean). This can take up to 36 hours (see image).

5)    Final Wash- in fresh water to clean the beans.

6)    Skin Drying- sun drying on drying tables where beans are regularly turned. This can take up to 8 days (see image).

Their noted cooperative of small farms and mills finances one of the best research institutions in the world: The Coffee Research Foundation, known to offer national and international training on all aspects of coffee ranging from; research and dissemination of new technologies; development and sustainment of wealth and overall improved welfare, productivity and efficiency in the coffee industry. Worthwhile when you consider that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world(3). When it's said and done Kenya proves to be vested in its coffee industry for the long haul!

Till our next cup of coffee!

Next week it's all about Rwanda! If you have images pertaining to your coffee experiences relevant to Rwanda email them to me by Monday, 1st Nov. 9:00AM EDT. Once again, I'll post the best images on my blog on Wednesday, 3rd November.

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(1) The name Kenya means "place of ostriches".

(2) Making up 5% of the country's total exports.

(3) The first is petroleum.

How Do Ethiopians and Eritreans Take Their Coffee? Very Seriously! - Drink Day Wednesday with Elizabetta Tekeste

Last year my friend and I embarked on learning how to properly make 'bun na adina' which translated means: coffee from home. Sounds simple enough right? Well, where we come from coffee is a celebration and ritual that takes hours to perform and years to perfect.

The Bean:

Before I describe the beauty that is the coffee ceremony from Ethiopia and Eritrea I want to briefly touch upon the bean that made coffee famous; the Arabica bean. The Arabica bean produces some of the best coffee in the world and often fetches the highest market prices due to intensive growing and processing costs. This bean is indigenous to Ethiopia and more specifically the Kaffa region although strains now grow along the equator as far away as Central and South America. It grows best at high altitudes with warm climates and 60-80 inches of annual rainfall. The abundance of sunlight in Ethiopia (13 months to be exact![1]) and rich soil yield a bean that is balanced with a good amount of acidity and notes of blueberry, citrus and chocolate.

The Ceremony:

The ceremony celebrates Ethiopia and Eritrea's pride and passion for coffee. It begins with your hostess, a woman in traditional custom consisting of a white dress with colorful and sometimes intricately woven borders (see below). She arranges all the necessary equipment over a bed of grass (real or artificial) that represents abundance (see below). She roasts the green beans in a small hand held pan over a coal stove until the beans turn black and shiny. The flavorful aroma from these beans delights guests as they partake in popcorn, candy and tea biscuits (this medley can vary depending on preferences and location). Once roasted, the beans are presented to the guests who praise the delicious aroma. Next the beans are ground (traditionally) with mortar and pestle or more recently a coffee grinder.

The ground coffee is poured into a jebena (clay pot with a long neck) and water is added. The coffee is brought to a boil three times before it is served. During this time the guests catch up on politics, life, and juicy gossip.

Once the coffee is ready the hostess stuffs a horsehair filter at the mouth of the jebena to filter the coffee. With mastered technique she pours the coffee into each finjal (cup) pouring from high above the cups without interruption. Ethiopians and Eritreans typically drink their coffee with lots of sugar or salt, no milk. Three rounds of coffee are served as it is considered impolite (and bad luck!) to stop before consuming all three cups. Each round has a name, the first cup is Abol (meaning first round), the second cup is called Tona (meaning second round) and the third cup is called Baraka (meaning third round and blessed). In Ethiopia and Eritrea this honored tradition can take place up to three times a day, every day!

Should you find yourself invited to an Ethiopian/Eritrean coffee ceremony the rules to remember are; the eldest are served first (males before females), the youngest serve the guests and finally praise, praise and praise some more; the hostess, her technique and the luscious taste of the coffee throughout the ceremony!

Now you are family!

Thank you to everyone who sent in images of their experiences with the Ethiopian/Eritrean coffee ceremony. Special thanks to Christine Dziubla who sent in the image of the young girl roasting the beans and Kyla Mitchell who sent in the images of the beautiful woman in traditional custom and the images of the jebena and finjal!

Next week it's all about Kenya! If you have any images pertaining to coffee in Kenya email them to us by Monday, 25th Oct 9:00AM EDT. Once again, I'll post the best images my blog on Wednesday, 27th October.

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[1] The official slogan for Ethiopia's Ministry of Tourism is: "13 Months of Sunshine"