Coffee growing region: Southern Province.
As promised, I’m pleased to report on a recent coffee trip to Rwanda. I’ve just returned from the “Land of a Thousand Hills” serving on another international Cup of Excellence® jury. You may recall from past reports, the Cup of Excellence® is a non-profit organization founded by a small group of dedicated coffee experts who, in partnership with source countries, conduct a competition and auction as a way to discover phenomenal coffees and financially reward the coffee farmer. While the winning coffees won’t be on US soil for some time, the story of Rwanda’s recent state is worth sharing.
Bustling streets of Kigali, capitol city of Rwanda.
Rwanda has recovered and evolved into a vibrant country nearly 18 years since the unimaginable genocide. President Paul Kagame is astutely aware that aid money does not flow forever, nor do Rwandans want it to as they work hard to be self-sufficient and industrious. Rwanda strives to be a business hub and center for East and Central Africa. The road system is improving, streets are clean, a new airport is under construction (although I will miss the giant artichoke) and a massive Convention Center is rising in the city center. There is a palpable energy in the country.
Coffee quality is soaring as reflected by a challenging Cup of Excellence® competition. Jurors from 13 different countries made up an eclectic group, including Germany, Norway, Japan, South Korea, England, Russia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, United States, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Rwanda. By day 3 the jury had identified the top 10 coffees and we were ready to rank in order. For the first time a coffee received a ranking high enough (90 points +) to receive the President’s award.
The grand COE awards ceremony was an outdoor event attended by 2,000 people featuring tribal dancing, music and heartfelt speeches. I will never tire of the unbridled joy of the farmers who win this competition. Designed in 1999 to elevate the idea that the very best coffee in the world is something extremely special, the Cup of Excellence® changes lives of farmers for the better.
Cupping for Excellence.
Along with the process of discovery and identification of the best coffee in the country, these trips are an opportunity to visit and determine the best growing regions, washing stations and milling operations in source country. Familiar with the Western Region, I chose to visit the Northern, Eastern and Southern regions of Rwanda as part of Cravens’ unique verification efforts. As with all source countries I have visited, it is illuminating to see farms, villages, people and processes first-hand as a standard for Cravens Coffee purchases.
Cravens Coffee will participate in the COE Global Internet Auction in late October. Once shipped to the US, roasted and packaged this Rwanda COE coffee should be available for you early 2013. As always, we will keep you posted!
It is a pleasure serving you,
Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
I am in the final preparations for a trip to Tanzania and a trek up to the Mondul Farm to see their harvest in full swing. I am honored to have seen harvesting in many coffee growing regions over the years, but this will be the first time in East Africa. There is nothing like the baskets of coffee cherries coming in for milling to really understand and appreciate a particular origin and, in this case, farm. Mondul Farm is located on the slopes of Mondul Mountain in the heartland of the Maasai people. The coffee is shade grown with a natural mountain spring water source. This year we purchased their entire Peaberry crop (two beans grow together forming one bean for an intense, citrus-y flavor profile) and we will be looking to secure the same in 2013. I love this coffee both as a brew by the cup with a Hario filter and even as single origin espresso.
The trip continues with the 2012 Rwanda Cup of Excellence, where I will be one of the International Judges determining their best coffee of the year. The Rwandan coffee industry has experienced a roller coaster ride over the past several years. International aid organizations and large multi-national roasters, all with good intentions, seemed to “pull” Rwanda around in a multitude of directions. They are finally settling down and understanding the importance of diversifying their international customer base for the long-term health of an improving coffee sector. The preview tasting (cupping) of the coffees has been very highly touted as the best ever. The week of judging will include getting out into the “land of a thousand hills” to see how their coffee is rising in quality and consistency.
This will be my third trip to Rwanda, the first 10 years after the genocide. It is always a remarkable experience and privilege to visit this extraordinary country.
I look forward to sharing the experience, and the coffee, with you upon my return.
As always, thank you for entrusting Cravens Coffee to source and roast your specialty coffee,