Kenya’s growing taste for specialty coffee boosts production



NYERI, Kenya, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – Kenyan butcher David Mwangi likes to start his day with a mocha or cappuccino at a recently opened cafe in his area – the first of its kind in a farming town where a sweet, milky cup of tea is how most people start the day.

“The coffee helps my mind wake up. The taste is sweet,” said the 27-year-old, while sipping the drink at the outlet owned by Kilele Coffee Company in the town of Karatina, about 120 kilometers away. the capital, Nairobi.

The small coffee chain – which has six outlets in central Kenya – was founded last year by Joshua Kariuki, who returned home to the town of Nyeri after 15 years as an aid worker, including in South sudan.

He hopes Kilele will add profit and value to local farmers as he depends on them for the supply of raw coffee.

“We want to have a culture of drinking coffee locally,” Kariuki said.

A booming domestic market could nurture a new generation of farmers in a declining industry, said Matthew Harrison, an Amsterdam-based buyer at specialty coffee supply company Trabocca.

Kenya’s coffee production peaked at 129,000 tonnes three decades ago, but has fallen to around 40,000 tonnes due to mismanagement, global price fluctuations and climate change.

Today, this East African country accounts for just 1% of the world’s harvest, but its high-quality Arabica beans are sought after by roasters to be blended with other varieties.

Demand at home for the beans is increasing as new members of the urban middle class and even those in the countryside develop a taste for specialty coffee.

Kenyans consume only 5% of total production, compared to neighboring Ethiopia, where domestic consumption accounts for almost half of production, thanks to a strong coffee drinking culture.

But local consumption in Kenya has tripled to 1,500 metric tonnes per year over the past decade, figures from global trade data portal Statista showed.

This benefits farmers like Thuo Mathenge, who closed his medical business in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to return to his village ten years ago. He now processes the beans from his sprawling coffee plantation at the foot of Mount Kenya and sells the product through his retail outlets.

Mathenge attributed the rise of coffee cultivation in Kenya to growing knowledge of the drink’s potential benefits, including triggering alertness and increasing energy.

It produces more than 50 tonnes of coffee per year, and the proportion of coffee it sells locally has doubled to 60%, from 30% seven years ago. The rest goes to the United States, Great Britain and Belgium.

Its processed and organically grown coffee costs 2,000 shillings ($ 18.49) a kilo, compared to less than 100 shillings that most small-scale farmers in the region get for their raw coffee abroad, thanks to the fact. that it does not use chemicals in the crop. .

“Coffee is gold,” he said, adding that he was planting more coffee trees on a separate 20-acre lot.

($ 1 = 108 1500 Kenyan shillings)

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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