Some of the world’s best coffees come from Africa. And many coffee lovers believe the best coffee from Africa is Kenyan AA coffee. But just what is Kenya AA coffee?
The “AA” in Kenyan AA coffee, doesn’t refer to a specific type of coffee bean. Instead, it refers to the grade of the bean. And in the case of Kenyan coffee, AA is the highest grade available.
But what determines the coffee’s grade? What makes Kenyan AA among the best African coffee brands and what’s the best way to enjoy this specialty coffee?
I’m glad you asked!
In this post, that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss and by the end, you should be an expert on Kenya AA Coffee.
Let’s jump right in!
About Kenyan coffee
Before we talk specifically about Kenya’s AA coffee, let’s talk about Kenyan coffee in general.
Kenyan coffee beans are mostly of the bourbon variety (a subtype of arabica). But they also come in several varietals, namely: SL28, SL34, K7, Ruiru 11, and Batian.
I realize most of those names may not sound inspiring, but the coffee brewed from these beans is quite delicious! And the varietals themselves do have useful differences.
For instance, SL28 can survive in dryer climates because it requires much less water and K7 is much more disease resistant.
Kenyan coffee is primarily grown in the areas around Mt. Kenya, which is known for its nutrient-rich volcanic soil and high altitude.
But there are several other areas around the country where coffee is grown, such as Nakuru, Machakos, and Kiambu.
Despite where it’s grown, the majority of coffee is cultivated by hundreds of thousands of small farmers. And these farmers are organized into cooperatives.
Kenya’s Coffee Grading System
Kenya is known to produce some of the best African coffee beans because of its grading system.
The system works like this – after the beans are harvested by the farmers, they are sorted and ranked by size, color, shape, and density.
How Many Grades are there?
Kenya has 8 coffee grades that they can sort their beans into. From largest to smallest, they are E (Elephant), PB (Peaberry), AA, AB, C, TT, T, and MH/ML.
Elephant grade beans are the largest Kenyan beans available. Peaberry beans and large AA grade beans are also considered Elephant grade.
Since Peaberry is a special class of beans, the largest “regular” coffee beans are grade AA.
Why is size so important?
The reason size is so important to quality and grade, is that the larger beans have more of the oils that give coffee its flavor. Larger beans also roast slower and produce a better quality brew than smaller beans.
What is Kenya AA Coffee?
Kenan AA coffee is considered to be the highest grade of coffee from Kenya. Beans of this grade were most likely cultivated in the volcanic soils around Mount Kenya by small farmers.
These beans have a screen size of at least 17 or 18. (Meaning the beans have a diameter of 17/64 or 18/64 of an inch).
They’re also known for having a medium body and intense, winey flavor with a rich aroma.
Why is Kenya AA Coffee Special
Two reasons Kenyan coffee is so special are the growing location and the harvesting methods.
Kenyan AA coffee is mostly grown in volcanic soils. Volcanic soil is highly regarded for its rich nutrients and its ability to produce high-quality coffee with good acidity.
Mount Kenya is also the second-highest mountain in Africa. The altitude and coolness of this mountain are one of the main reasons Kenyan coffee is what it is.
Kenyan coffee beans are harvested by hand, unlike in many other countries. Hand-picking produces what’s known as “cleaner” cups of coffee with fewer defects and more desirable qualities because the berries aren’t broken during harvesting like they would be if machine picked.
Brewing Kenya AA coffee
If you’ve decided to give Kenya AA coffee a try, the best way to brew it is with an immersion method such as a French press.
Since Kenyan AA coffee is highly regarded and is widely considered a specialty coffee, it’s best to go with a method that allows you to taste all of the bean’s complexities.
This is exactly what immersion allows as all of the coffee’s oils and flavors are extracted directly into the water without having to go through a filter.
Kenyan AA coffee is without a doubt one of the best coffees available. The variety of beans grown there, along with the volcanic soil, careful harvesting method, and intense grading system make this a very special coffee bean.
If you’ve never tasted Kenyan AA coffee, we recommend you give it a try!