The Kenyan Coffee Classification System: Ensuring Quality and Consistency

The Kenyan Coffee Classification System

Coffee is one of Kenya’s most important agricultural commodities, and the country is renowned for producing some of the finest coffee beans in the world. To ensure quality and consistency, Kenya has established a rigorous coffee classification system. This system categorizes coffee beans based on their size, shape, and quality, allowing buyers and consumers to make informed decisions.

Grade Classification

The Kenyan coffee classification system assigns grades to coffee beans based on their size and shape. The grading process involves passing the beans through a series of screens with different-sized holes. The beans are then sorted into various grades, each with its own characteristics and market value.

The highest grade of Kenyan coffee is AA, which consists of large, round beans. These beans are highly prized for their superior quality and flavor. The next grade is AB, which includes slightly smaller beans but still maintains a high standard of quality.

Other grades include PB (Peaberry), C, E, TT, and T. Peaberry beans, denoted by the PB grade, are unique because they grow as a single bean in the cherry instead of the usual two. These beans are often considered to have a more concentrated flavor.

The C grade consists of smaller beans that may have slight defects but still meet the minimum quality requirements. The E grade includes beans that are smaller and less uniform in size, while the TT grade is reserved for broken or defective beans. The T grade is the lowest quality grade and is used for lower-grade commercial blends.

Quality Classification

In addition to size and shape, Kenyan coffee beans are also classified based on their quality. The quality classification is determined through a process called cupping, where trained professionals evaluate the coffee’s aroma, flavor, acidity, body, and aftertaste.

The highest quality coffee is classified as Specialty Grade. These beans exhibit exceptional characteristics and are considered to be of the highest standard. They are often sourced from specific micro-regions within Kenya and are carefully processed to preserve their unique flavors.

The next quality classification is Premium Grade, which includes beans that meet the minimum quality requirements but may not have the same exceptional characteristics as Specialty Grade beans. Premium Grade coffee is still of high quality and is favored by many consumers.

The lowest quality classification is Exchange Grade, which includes beans that do not meet the minimum quality requirements for Premium Grade. These beans are often used for commercial blends or instant coffee.

Auction System

Once the coffee beans have been graded and classified, they are typically sold through an auction system. The Nairobi Coffee Exchange is the main platform for trading Kenyan coffee. Registered buyers participate in weekly auctions where they bid on lots of coffee based on their grade and quality.

The auction system ensures transparency and fair pricing for both buyers and sellers. It also allows for competition among buyers, which can drive up prices for high-quality beans. The auction system has played a crucial role in maintaining the reputation of Kenyan coffee as a premium product.


The Kenyan coffee classification system is a comprehensive and well-established framework that ensures the quality and consistency of the country’s coffee beans. By categorizing coffee based on size, shape, and quality, the system provides valuable information for buyers and consumers. Whether it’s the large and round AA beans or the unique flavors of the PB grade, Kenyan coffee offers a wide range of options for coffee enthusiasts around the world.

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