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Kenyan coffee ranks among the world’s top beans

Three Kenyan factories have been ranked among the world’s best specialty coffee producers for 2017, putting farmers on the path to better earnings.

Kabare AA, produced by the Kabare farmers’ cooperative society in Kirinyaga was ranked fourth on Coffee Review’s list of Top 30 with a score of 97 points out of 100.

AA is the highest grade of Kenya coffee based on bean size and freedom from physical imperfections.

Riakiberu AB came in at position 20 with 95 points. The coffee was produced by Kamacharia farmers’ cooperative society in Murang’a.

And, Baragu farmers’ cooperative society in Kirinyaga was selected as the number 25 coffee of the top 30 list.

The rankings were, however, a drop compared to 2016 when seven factories were ranked among the world’s best by Coffee Review, an online publication that analyses the quality of beans globally.

According to Coffee Review, before roasting, this coffee from Baragu was kept for 65 days in barrels previously used to age bourbon whiskey.

The review team said this coffee tied for the highest rating in a cupping of aged, casked and specially cured beans for Coffee Review’s May 2017 tasting report.

The featuring of Kenyan coffee among the top in the world comes at a time when there are challenges in the sub-sector ranging from unclear government coffee policy and urban encroachment on prime coffee lands to chronically unstable weather.

The famed Kenya coffee auction system and its participating cooperatives continue to produce some of the world’s most elegant and distinctive coffees.

“Coffee Review’s goal, as always, is to celebrate coffee roasters, farmers and mill-owners who make an extra effort to produce coffees that are not only superb in quality but also distinctive in character,” said the review team.

“In particular, we want to honour the dedication of coffee producers large and small who with the support of their roaster partners are crafting a range of sensory excellence and diversity that has never existed before in the history of the beverage.”

For the past five years, Coffee Review has released its top 30 list, where the team’s editors rank the most exciting coffees from the thousands they cupped over the course of the past year.

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“We selected and ranked these 30 exciting coffees and espressos based on quality (represented by overall ratings), value (reflected by most affordable price per pound), and other factors that include distinctiveness of style, uniqueness of origin or tree variety, certification and general rarity,” the review team said.

For each of the five years the coffee experts have created a top 30 list, their top pick has been a single-origin coffee.

This past year, however, saw the first time a coffee from Yemen topped the list.

In 2016, a Kenya product - Guama coffee factory, a member of Baragwi cooperative society in Kirinyaga, topped the list, and in both 2014 and 2015 coffees from Panama (both from trees of the Gesha variety) prevailed.

In 2013, the number one coffee was an exceptional Ethiopia.

Last year, six of the top 30 selections were produced from trees of the Gesha variety, which, since their rediscovery in 2004, continues to produce rare, expensive and generally stunning and original coffees.

Five of the top 30 Gesha were from farms in Panama.

Other origins with multiple coffees on the list are Colombia (3), Ethiopia (3), Kenya (3), Sumatra (2), Hawaii (2), Rwanda (2), and El Salvador (2).

“Tree variety continues to play what appears to be a crucial role in the success of many coffees on this year’s top 30 list. Six top 30 selections were produced from trees of the Gesha variety. Four more were mainly produced from the heirloom, Bourbon-related SL28 and SL34 varieties responsible for the finest coffees of Kenya; two came from trees of the rare, big-beaned Pacamara variety, and four from heirloom varieties grown only in Ethiopia,” noted Kenneth Davids, a coffee expert, author and co-founder of Coffee Review.

24 of the coffees on the top 30 list were roasted by companies in the United States, including roasters in 11 US states.

California roasters led once again in numbers, with five representatives overall. Multiple coffees from roasters in Wisconsin, Colorado and Connecticut appear on the list, along with coffees roasted by companies in Taiwan, Canada, Australia, and Rwanda.

Processing method also appeared to play a significant role in the sensory differentiation that helped qualify a coffee for the top 30, although a less important role than tree variety.

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