SL28 and SL34: Kenya’s Coffee Pride

In the realm of specialty coffee, Kenya stands out, particularly for its renowned SL28 and SL34 coffee varieties. These varieties, developed in the early 20th century, have become synonymous with the high quality and distinct flavor profiles Kenyan coffee is known for globally. The story of SL28 and SL34 begins with their development by Scott Agricultural Laboratories (SL), from which they derive their names. These varieties were cultivated to suit the Kenyan climate and soil, aiming to maximize both the quality and yield of coffee crops.

SL28, arguably the more famous of the two, is prized for its exceptional drought resistance. This characteristic makes it particularly well-suited to the varying climatic conditions in Kenya. The variety is predominantly found in high altitude areas, where it benefits from the region’s rich volcanic soils and optimal temperature range. The unique growing conditions contribute significantly to the coffee’s distinct flavor profile, which is often described as bright and complex, with a delightful balance of sweetness and acidity. Notes of blackcurrant, citrus fruits, and sometimes a savory-sweet tomato-like acidity are hallmarks of SL28’s taste.

SL34, on the other hand, is known for its excellent performance in wetter conditions. It shares many of the favorable attributes of SL28, including a similar flavor profile, but tends to thrive in different environmental conditions. SL34 is often found in lower altitudes and wetter regions compared to SL28. Its beans are recognized for their bold, full-bodied nature, with flavors that range from citrusy and floral to spicy and nutty, depending on the specific growing conditions and processing methods.

Both SL28 and SL34 are largely responsible for establishing Kenya’s reputation in the coffee world. The country’s unique combination of high altitude, equatorial climate, and volcanic soil provides an ideal environment for these varieties to develop their signature flavors. The meticulous attention to detail in the cultivation and processing of these beans further enhances their quality. Kenyan coffee farmers and processors are known for their rigorous standards, often employing a washed processing method that helps to highlight the coffee’s natural acidity and fruity flavors.

The global coffee community holds Kenyan SL28 and SL34 in high regard, often considering them among the best in the world. Coffee connoisseurs and enthusiasts seek out these varieties for their distinct taste profiles that stand out even in a cup of blended coffee. The popularity of these varieties has also encouraged experimentation and innovation in Kenyan coffee production, including the development of new processing methods and the exploration of other potentially outstanding local varieties.

Despite challenges such as climate change, economic pressures, and the rigorous demands of maintaining high-quality standards, Kenya continues to produce exceptional coffees with SL28 and SL34 at the forefront. These varieties not only represent the pinnacle of Kenyan coffee but also serve as a testament to the country’s dedication to producing some of the world’s finest coffees. For those who appreciate specialty coffee, a cup made from Kenyan SL28 or SL34 offers a unique and unforgettable experience, embodying the rich heritage and ongoing excellence of Kenyan coffee production.

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