Mornings in Kenya are typically filled with people drinking milky tea, but nowadays, you might see more people, both urban middle class and rural folks alike, sipping on cappuccinos instead.
In a town called Karatina in Nyeri County, people are developing a taste for speciality coffee, which is driving local crop production. As a result, several local businesses are opening up to promote coffee drinking culture to enhance and boost the domestic market.
Even though they produce some of the world’s best Arabica beans, Kenya only produces 1% of the world’s total crop of coffee. Approximately three decades ago, Kenya coffee production hit an all-time high of 129,000 tonnes. However, a combination of climate change, bad management, and price fluctuation has led to a drop to 40,000 tonnes in recent years.
Local businesses are actively promoting coffee drinking culture in the country. Among them is a local coffee chain, Kilele Coffee Company, started by Joshua Kariuki last year. Even though the company has six locations nationwide, this is the first outlet in Karatina. With the coffee shop relying on farmers for raw coffee supply, Kariuki wants to add value for local farmers. Moreover, with the added value, it might ultimately cultivate a new generation of coffee farmers.
In contrast to Ethiopia, where the drinking culture is strong, and the locals consume almost half of the country’s coffee production, Kenyans consume only 5%. However, in the past decade, local consumption has tripled to 1,500 metric tonnes per year, based on the global business data portal Statista.
According to farmer Thuo Mathenge, the growing consumption of coffee in Kenya is the result of the growing awareness of the many benefits of coffee, including alertness and energy boosts.
The farm Mathenge operates produces organic coffee beans, which are sold to retail outlets at a high price since the beans are chemical-free. On average, he produces 50 tonnes of coffee a year. Of that, 60% goes local, which is double what it was seven years ago.
If preserving the livelihoods and values of coffee farmers in small towns like Karatina requires a strong coffee-drinking culture, then these small businesses have made a necessary first step in the right direction.