Search The Query
Search

Best Kenyan Coffee Brands – Review and Guide

best kenyan coffee

Kenya is the next-door neighbor to the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia. While not having as rich a history steeped in coffee lore, it remains a giant among African coffees. 

Kenyan coffee is a deliciously tart, citrusy blend cut with earthy, woody notes and a satisfying body; the Volcanica Kenya AA Whole Bean being the quintessential coffee bean that encapsulates the country’s coffee traditions.

Let’s take a closer look into why that’s the case, starting from the beginning:

Kenyan Coffee Traditions 

Coffee was first introduced to the country in 1893 when European missionaries brought Arabica coffee cherries and coffee trees of the Bourbon variety to be planted in Nairobi. In 1895, the British colonized Kenya and took over all coffee and crop management, enacting coffee-making restrictions. 

It wasn’t until 1963, when Kenya achieved its independence, that coffee farmers had the opportunity to take ownership of their production. Kenyan farmers began embracing bold reforms and new bills introduced to the government.

Today, the non-profit Kenya Coffee Producer’s Association (KCPA) regulates the coffee industry and protects the coffee farmers’ socio-economic welfare. Annual yields are almost 700 thousand bags, and the vast majority are exported to coffee lovers around the world.

Growing Regions 

Nyeri Region — Situated between the western mountains, Mt. Kenya, and the Aberdare range, this volcanic, nutrient-rich soil produces coffee with crisp, earthy tones. Known as the heart of “black gold coffee.” 

Nyeri Ichamara — The quite literal opposite of the Nyeri Region, Nyeri Ichamara produces a vibrant, tropical brew with hints of black currant berries and tart citrusy tones. 

Kenyan AA Coffee

This isn’t about the 12 steps or getting a tow; the AA represents the finest coffee Kenya has to offer. Kenya AA is a highly sought-after, standard letter grade for exceptional, high-quality coffee. Like Hawaiians of the Big Island have the 100% Kona rating, Kenya has AA coffee. 

Kenya AA beans are graded after being processed and milled to their green bean form. Coffee experts factor in things like altitude, botanical variety, bean density, size, and appearance to give a letter grade that best represents its quality. 

You can expect a Kenyan AA bean to have a balanced taste profile with flavorful oils and a decadent body

Top Picks 

From the volcanic border of Mt. Elgon to the lush landscape of Nairobi, we scoured the Kenyan countryside to bring you the best of the best. Here are our top picks for the best Kenyan coffee beans: 

Image
Product
Details
Price
Best Overall
volcanica kenya aa
Volcanica Kenya AA Whole Coffee Beans
  • Medium Roast
  • Hints of berries and redwood
  • All-purpose brewing
Best Whole bean
fresh roasted kenya aa
Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC Kenya AA
  • Medium Roast
  • Notes of peach, citrus fruits, orange zest
  • Best for French Press
Best dark roast
cooper's cask kenya
Cooper’s Cask Kenya AA Dark Roast
  • Dark Roast
  • Honey wheat, brown sugar and chocolate notes
  • Best for French Press, Cold Brew, or Auto-Drip
Best single-origin
volcanica kenya natural process
Volcanica Kenya Natural Process Coffee
  • Light-medium Roast
  • Cranberry, chocolate, and spice notes
  • Best for French Press
best light roast

Java House Kenya AA Coffee Beans
  • Light Roast
  • Bright blackcurrant and floral notes
  • Best for French Press or Auto-Drip

1. Volcanica Kenya AA Whole Coffee Beans — Best Overall  

At A Glance
  • Roast: Medium
  • Body: Full-Bodied
  • Flavor Profile: Raspberry, cranberry, and fresh-cut redwood
  • Best Brewing Method: All-purpose brewing
  • Ground or whole beans: Both

The Volcanica Kenya AA is everything we love about Kenyan coffee.

With a tantalizingly complex flavor profile, the Volcanica Kenya AA bean brews a cup of coffee with notes of raspberry, rich cherry flavor, and notes of redwood, with a floral aroma resembling alyssum flowers. This lightly tart, complex taste has a crisp, earthy edge to it with a full-bodied finish. 

These beans are grown 4900 — 6800 feet above sea level in East Kenya’s Nyeri Region, on the Nyeri Hill Estate. The high-altitude growth process gives the bean light fruity notes and bright acidity. At the same time, it makes for a more flavorful coffee than other beans grown at lower heights. 

These are single-origin, shade-grown beans. Because of less exposure to the sun, the natural sugars and distinct flavor profiles are enhanced as the coffee cherry’s maturation process is slowed. This is where you get the earthy tones and woody aromatics of redwood. 

Between the high altitude and shade-grown process, these beans pack an intense flavor unlike any other.  

Volcanica Kenyan AA coffee beans are sustainably sourced and Rainforest Alliance Certified. A better bean that still ensures the longevity of the Kenyan coffee industry. 

This is a blend that’s bagged to be the best Kenyan coffee bean, and let me tell you, mission accomplished.

Pros
  • High altitude beans that deliver varietals with a wider spectrum of flavors 
  • Single-origin, shade-grown process makes this rich flavor even richer 
  • Sustainably sourced and cultivated 
  • Bright acidity without the bitter aftertaste
Cons
  • Longer than average shipping times

2. Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC Kenya AA — Best Whole Bean 

At A Glance
  • Roast: Medium
  • Body: Bold-Bodied
  • Flavor Profile: Peach, citrus fruits, orange zest, and black tea with a chocolate taste finish
  • Best Brewing Method: French Press
  • Ground or whole beans: Both

The Kenya AA Whole Bean from Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC is a great choice for even the snobbiest of whole bean coffee snobs. 

These beans are hand-picked and sent to the wet mill for washing the same day. They’re also grown by smallholders in Kenya’s Bungoma County, with less than 200 trees each. The result? Top quality, perfect single-origin coffee beans every time.

This bold-bodied Kenyan AA Coffee gives the coffee drinker a rich body with a thicker, velvety mouthfeel which contributes to the almost winey flavor of this whole bean. 

With fruity flavors of peach, citrus fruits, and orange zest paired with the black tea and a noteworthy amount of chocolate notes, this is a refreshing bean that makes the coffee’s savory sweet nuances really pop. Using a French press will slowly release the citrus flavor. 

Pros
  • Hand-picked coffee cherries for a fresher taste 
  • Bold-bodied makes this coffee satisfying with a thicker, velvety mouthfeel
  • Grown by smallholders with no more than 200 coffee trees to ensure high-quality beans 
Cons
  • High static charge of the beans could make for a messy grind

3. Cooper’s Cask Kenya AA Dark Roast — Best Dark Roast

cooper's cask kenya
At A Glance
  • Roast: Dark
  • Body: Full-Bodied
  • Flavor Profile: Honey wheat, brown sugar, bittersweet chocolate, molasses biscuit 
  • Best Brewing Method: French Press, Cold Brew, or Auto-Drip
  • Ground or whole beans: Both

Cooper’s Cask is for dark roast connoisseurs to enjoy all the deep coffee flavors and rich body of a Kenyan AA dark roast. 

With a decadent flavor profile, the Kenya AA roast is of the Bourbon varietal with notes of honey wheat, brown sugar, bittersweet chocolate, and molasses biscuit. This is lick-your-lips kind of savory. 

The undertones of this brew are tart with berry flavors and a rich cherry taste that also gives this coffee a fragrant aroma. These beans are as full-body coffee as it gets, with a heavy, creamy texture. 

They also make for versatile brewing and work best with cold brew methods; beat the heat just like the Kenyans do in the Central Highlands. 

Cooper’s Cask roasts their beans in small batch quantities to maintain all their coffee varietals’ complex tones and acidic nuances.

Pros
  • Versatile brewing to satisfy any and all coffee drinkers 
  • Small batch roasting to ensure an even roasting process
  • Deliciously dark fruit undertones paired with brown sugar and chocolate with a rich body 
Cons
  • Inconsistent quality and may arrive stale according to online reviewers

4. Volcanica Kenya Natural Process Coffee — Best Single-Origin

At A Glance
  • Roast: Light-Medium
  • Body: Well-Rounded 
  • Flavor Profile: Cranberry, chocolate, and spices
  • Best Brewing Method: French Press
  • Ground or whole beans: Both

Another entry from Volcanica Coffee, the Natural Process bean is a single-origin blend that’s sure to delight the coffee lover with overtones of berries, vibrant acidity, and floral fragrances. 

The berry-like aftertaste comes from a flavor profile with sweet cranberries, chocolate, and undertones of spice. This is a bright taste profile that’s meant to be easy to drink and smooth. 

The bold flavor of the cherry comes from the raised-bed drying process or African-style beds. Instead of patio drying, raised beds promote air flow for rapid drying and preserving the sweet, clean taste of cherries.

The Natural Process bean comes from the Ruera Estate, Kenya’s oldest coffee farm, sitting over 5000 feet above sea level. Here, the bean is grown, harvested, washed, dried, roasted, and sent straight to you.

Pros
  • African-style beds allow for even air circulation when the beans dry, making the sweet cherry taste bold 
  • Raised at over 5,000 feet high from the Ruera Estate: the oldest coffee farm in Kenya  
  • Bright, pleasant acidity that flourishes as it cools
Cons
  • Missing the tart, citrus notes indicative of the Ichamara region

5. Java House Kenya AA Coffee Beans — Best Light Roast 

At A Glance
  • Roast: Light
  • Body: Thin
  • Flavor Profile: Bright blackcurrant, floral notes, and a winey aftertaste
  • Best Brewing Method: French Press or Auto-Drip
  • Ground or whole beans: Whole

The Kenya AA Coffee Beans by Java House comes from a quality coffee producer that delivers these refreshingly light African coffee beans. 

With the taste of bright blackcurrant, floral notes, and a grape-like wine flavor that lingers, this is the perfect coffee bean for light roast aficionados. It’s also an inexpensive option that is great for budget coffee drinkers new to Kenya coffee.  

These beans are small batch roasted to ensure an evenly distributed, flawless roast. The growth process is also a slow bean, which allows the coffee cherry to mature fully and have more of a chance to develop an intricate complexity to its flavor. 

Pros
  • Small batch, evenly roasted coffee 
  • Slow bean growth process allows the fresh coffee cherries more time to develop distinct flavor profiles
  • An inexpensive option for budget coffee drinkers new to Kenyan coffee
Cons
  • No extra features in packaging to make sure your ground coffee lasts; shelf-life can be a dealbreaker

Buyer’s Guide

Flavor Profile 

For the authentic taste of Kenya, it will depend on what tasting notes excite you the most. 

The Nyeri Region will give you an earthy coffee with notes of redwood and chocolatey sweetness, with undertones of cherries and raspberries. No better example of this than our top overall pick from Volcanica Coffee’s Kenya AA Whole Bean. 

These are more of a medium-level to dark roast, with an extra kick of caffeine. They pair perfectly with hearty breakfasts, long drives, and busy work days while letting you enjoy all the signature complexity of Kenyan coffee. 

The Nyeri Ichamara coffee is tart and tropical with notes of peaches, oranges, green apple, and citrus-like acidity. This is a light to medium roast that’s made to be enjoyed on the pool deck in the sun; refreshingly sweet.  

Brewing 

French Press — This brew style allows you to fully control your coffee taste by customizing your water temperature and brew time. French pressing light to medium Kenyan roasts gets the bright, fruity flavors and citrusy acidity to stand out. 

Auto-Drip — Ease of use and brewing in larger quantities are the benchmark benefits of using an Auto-Drip machine. While more accessible to a wider range of budgets and coffee drinkers, Auto-Drip coffee generally hits a ceiling of taste quality. 

Cold Brew — Delicious and revitalizing, cold brewing coffee cuts the acidity of your coffee, which is good for sensitive stomachs. However,  it’s not as good for Kenya’s signature bright acidity flavor. 

The Verdict 

Kenya creates some of the most decadent, mouthwatering coffee flavors in the world, with some of the best beans in the whole of the African continent. 

The bean that encapsulates the Kenyan coffee experience is the Volcanica Kenya AA Whole Bean, with its lightly tart, crisp, earthy edge, and a sweet, full-bodied finish; everything you’d hope for and more in a Kenyan coffee bean. 

This is a triumph in coffee bean excellence and will make any and all coffee lovers reach for a second cup. Enjoy!