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The Coffee Industry in Kenya

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  1. Coffee Directorate
  2. KENYA Coffee Fact
  3. Coffee Marketing and Promotion

Coffee Directorate


Be a reputable facilitator for the Development, Promotion and overall oversight for the coffee industry.


To provide a conducive environment for the growth of the industry through regulation, building partnerships, promoting competitiveness, value addition through branding thus enhance quality/production for producers and consumer satisfaction.


The Coffee Directorate is the apex body for the coffee industry, established in 1934 after the enactment of the coffee industry ordinance in 1933.  The Directorate was charged with the responsibility to carry out regulation and marketing of coffee.  The auctions as a mode of selling Kenya coffee was established in 1934 and created in 1935 to enhance quality assessment through the grading.  This role has changed over time through various amendments to the law.   In 2001, the coffee Act cap 333 was repeated and the coffee Act No. 9 of 2001 enacted, establishing the Directorate as a statutory body under the Ministry of Agriculture, solely to regulate the coffee industry.


The object and purpose for which the Directorate is established is to promote competition in the coffee industry, production, processing and value addition including branding of Kenya coffee locally and internationally, and generally to regulate the coffee industry in the public interest.  The following general objectives form the basis for the Directorates activities.

  • To formulate policies and rules to regulate and develop the coffee industry in the consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • To carry out registration and licensing of coffee nurseries, growers, pulping stations, millers, marketing agents, management agents, buyers, roasters, packers, warehousemen and auctioneers to ensure adherence to standards.
  • Provide advisory services related to coffee production and quality enhancement.
  • Collect, collate, analyze data, maintain a database on the coffee industry and document and monitor it through registration of persons dealing with coffee.
  • Advise and guide Coffee Research Foundation in the carrying out of research in all matters related to the coffee industry.
  • Representing the Government in international for a in regards to coffee matters.
  • Arbitrate in case of any disputes in the industry.
  • Carry out other functions aimed at the promotion of the industry.


In order to enable the industry competitively embrace the ever changing industry dynamics both locally and internally, the government has continuously provided the required policy and legal reforms.

In deed, the role of the government through (CBK) has so far been reduced to that of providing an enabling environment to all the players by creating a level playing field.

KENYA Coffee Fact

KENYA Coffee Fact File

There are many types of coffees in the world and the main species are Arabica and Robusta.  Arabica is a high quality, mild coffee much favoured for blending.

Kenyan Arabica is grown on rich volcanic soils found in the highlands between 1400 to 2000 meters above sea level.  It is an established fact the finest Arabic coffee in the world is grown in Kenya.

The climate is never hotter than an European summer and never cooler than the best kind of European spring with a temperature range of not more than 19C (35F).  Rainfall is well distributed throughout the year where coffee is grown with an annual precipitation not less that 1000 mm (35”) and deep well-drained red loam soils.  These conditions make most of the districts in Kenya where coffee is grown unique in the world.  There are broad, gently rounded ridges, sloping not too steeply into valleys which run swift perennial streams.  The red volcanic soil is of great depth and fertility on the slopes ensuring good drainage.

Coffee production goes through a systematic protocol from seed to cup from nursery, farm, pulping, milling and grading.  Attention to detail guarantees that the consumer only gets the best of our Kenya Coffee.


The Coffee Research Foundation is the premier research institution and one of the best in the world.  It is financed by the growers and undertakes specialized research in all matters pertaining to the production, processing and marketing of coffee.

The Kenya Coffee College, housed within the precincts of the Coffee Research Foundation, offers both local and international, training on all aspects of coffee.  The highly qualified staff work tirelessly to ensure that information on the best and most modern farming technologies are disseminated to the stakeholders in real time.


Kenya coffee has been grown for over a century now, since 1893 when it was first introduced in Kenya.  The total area under coffee is estimated at 160,000 hectares, about one third of which is the plantation sector and the rests under small holder sector with an estimated 700,000 growers.

The total annual production has been fluctuating widely due to climate as well as socio-economic factors.  At the moment, production stands at about one million bags per year.

There are two distinct flowerings in each year, shortly after the beginning of the rains in March/April or October.  At the moment, production stands at about one million bags per year.

There are two district flowerings in each year, shortly after the beginning of the rains in March/April or October.  In most districts the main crop ripens from October to December.  The early crop often starts in May-July.


Almost all Kenyan coffee is processed by a wet method in order to ensure the best quality.  Growers pick only the red-ripe cherry.  At the factory, the cherries are sorted before processing and unripe, overripe or diseased cherries removed.  The cherries are then pulped to remove the outer skin.

The slimy sugary coating (mucilage) – which remain on the beans is removed through fermentation process.  Fermentation of parchment should be completed within 36 hours.

The parchment is now ready for sun drying on drying tables where it is regularly turned to obtain the bluish colour for which Kenya coffee is famous.

Drying the coffee is the lat process on the farm.  When it is fully dried the coffee is bagged and ready to be sent to the mills.


At the mills the parchment skin surrounding each bean is removed followed by mechanical grading of the coffee into seven (7) separate grades according to size, weight and shape of the bean.  Currently there are 7 licensed commercial coffee mills and several private mills.

PB Round beans usually one in a cherry.
AA Large beans (&.20 mm screen)
AB This grade is a combination of A and B (6.80 mm screen)
C Smaller bean than B
E Elephants.  The largest beans.
TT Any light coffee blown away from all grades including ears mostly from elephants.
T The smallest and thinnest beans mostly broken and faulty.

Mbuni is coffee that has not gone through the wet process (unwashed).  It comprises about 10% of the total crop and graded either as heavy mbuni (MH) or light mbuni (ML).  This grade generally fetches lower prices and has a sour tasting liquor.

These grades are then classified based on a numerical reference system on a scale of 1 to 10.  The quality of the raw, roast and the liquor are analyzed and described based on this scale where one (1) is the finest and best and ten (10) is the least favoured.  The cup may be described as Fine Fair to Good.  Fair Average Quality (standard 4), Fair, Poor to Fair to Common Plain Liquors.


Coffee quality and safety has been an issue of great concern to coffee producers and consumers all the world over.

The Directorate as the regulatory authority puts coffee quality at the centre of its mandate.  Every coffee miller and marketing Agent is by law required to forward a coffee sample for every lot handled for quality analysis and arbitration in case of dispute.  Growers also come to the Directorate for quality analysis of their coffee samples before making their marketing decisions.

Coffee Marketing and Promotion


Currently, there are two coffee marketing systems in Kenya.  The time tested central auction system has coffee auctions conducted every Tuesday of the week throughout the year.  This is a market where coffee is bought by the licensed coffee dealers through competitive bidding.  The Nairobi Coffee Exchange is under the management of the Kenya Coffee Producers and Traders Association (KCPTA).

The Direct Sale, commonly referred to as “Second Window” requires that a marketing Agent directly negotiate with a buyer outside the country and a sales contract is duly signed and registered with the Directorate.  The Directorate ratifies the contract after carrying out an inspection and analyzing the coffee for quality and value as per the contract.

There are two categories of Marketing Agents namely:- Commercial Marketing Agents who offer their services purely for commercial purposes and the Grower Marketing Agents who are growers marketing their own coffee.


The Directorate has the responsibility together with other stakeholders of promoting Kenya Coffee.  This is done through:-

  • Generic promotion of Kenya Coffee and what it stands for the customers. (brand identity).
  • Identifying and developing strategic networks through foreign Embassies, consumer and industry organizations in order to increase awareness of the quality and the consistency of Kenya Coffee.
  • Gathering Trade and Industry intelligence on consumption and industry developments in a bid to identify opportunities, threats and advise stakeholders accordingly.
  • Establishing linkages with locally based exporters and dealers so as to gather and analyze data on market trends and consumer patterns.
  • Developing respective country and consumer profiles in existing markets as well as emerging markets of Eastern European Europe, Asia and others in order to guide industry’s marketing efforts.
  • Participating in local and international Trade Fairs and Exhibitions as a means of increasing consumer awareness. 
  • Encouraging the growers and the buyers of Kenya Coffee to enter into relationship marketing so as to shorten the marketing chain, hence increase returns to growers.

Coffee Directorate
Coffee Plaza bldg., 10th Floor
Exchange Lane, off Haile Selassie Avenue
P.O. Box 30566-00100 NAIROBI
Phone: +254-20-342717, +254-20-342358
Mobile: 0710-670-026, 0788-109-426