The coffee of Kenya has always had us enamoured. The clean, crisp, and intense flavours are renowned worldwide, and in our opinion, it’s this unique vibrancy that makes Kenyan coffees truly unrivalled. It’s often the coffee that makes you say “wow” out loud, and it's this coffee experience that has converted so many people to the world of specialty coffee.

Back in 2015, we set off on our first trip to Kenya. Unsure of what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised; it turned out to be one of the most educational origin visits to date. We have made subsequent visits since then, but it’s only now, two years on, that we can understand how truly different, the coffee industry is in Kenya. 

One of the unique traits of the Kenyan coffee industry is their co-operative societies. A co-operative society is a collective formed of multiple washing stations, although a washing station can also be independent if they choose. Washing stations are centralised collection points where farmers in a community can take their coffee cherries to be sold; It’s here where everything from pulping, fermentation, and drying is completed.

Farmers have a direct say in their local washing station, and it's achieved in a very democratic way – they elect a management board from within the local farming community. The roles range from Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Treasurer, to Honorary Secretary, Secretary Manager, and committee members. It’s these elected farmers who help to identify issues or challenges that the station might face, but, for a significant change, they may take it to a society level. More on that in part 2!

This is part one of a three part blog series about the Kenyan coffee supply chain - check back in two weeks to read on!

By Steve Hall