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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
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 flavour 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.