It is frequently pointed out that Kenyan coffees are the best in the world. Also, that its cup profile is unique and that it must always be within certain parameters (blackcurrant, berries, winey, juicy), or else it would not be a good example of a good Kenyan coffee. It seems that the industry has preconceptions about what is a good coffee, and what flavors should be obtained from a certain origin; as if the production of coffee were an exact formula, similar to a highly efficient factory where economies of scale are generated and from which the same result is always obtained.
Pseudoscience is a tendency to make claims without any scientific basis. For example, anti-vaccine activism can cause people to forego proven medical treatments, which can lead to death or serious health problems.
In our beloved industry, unfortunately, we often come across "pseudo-scientists" who make assertions that are not based on scientific methodology, but rather are based on "coffee mythology" (if such a thing exists), or ideas that are more fabrication of the industry, than serious scientific studies regarding a given topic.
Let's take the concept of a cup profile for a minute. How on earth, could someone assure what the cup profile of a given origin is?
Every coffee farm in the world, even the most reputable one, will produce good, medium and bad quality beans. Therefore, separating the better, bigger and denser beans from those lighter and defective, is key to maximize the financial result of the producer.
In Kenya, after a certain lot has been processed, it will be delivered to the Marketing Agent (MA) in parchment by the producer or cooperative. The MA then, will mill and grade the lot by shape and size, and give this lot an unique "Outturn Number" (ON), before delivering a sample to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. This ON will be crucial to provide transparency and traceability to the system.
Just a few days ago, I walked into a coffee shop and bought a 250gr bag of Kenyan coffee for €20 approx. While I'm happy to pay that kind of money for a very good Kenya in a bag full of tasty promises, when I got home I found only disappointment.
It is an open secret within the specialty industry, that Kenyan coffees have been in a low the last couple of years, and probably it is one of the most controversial topics right now. As you may know, Kenya is one of the most prized origins within the specialty coffee world, it is sought by importers and roasters from all over the world as an origin of outstanding quality, intense sweetness, citrus/winey acidities and velvety bodies.
We would normally cup 500+ samples from Kenya each season, between origin and lab cuppings. Maybe the right number is something closer to 1,000 samples, between February and March each year since 2016. This year the quantity was lower for obvious reasons. And while it's common knowledge among coffee connoisseurs from around the world, that there has been a disruption in the quality of this great origin, we can discuss on the causes or how much it has been affected, but I don’t think anybody that understand well the Kenyan coffee industry, can deny there is a problem.