Roast: We love this bean at a Medium/Dark (Full City Roast – but just before 2nd crack), but you won’t be disappointed at a lighter roast.
About: As most African coffee-producing countries (with the exception of Ethiopia), Rwanda was planted in coffee by colonial interests from Europe in order to supply the booming market back on their home continent. High-yield, low-cost varieties were introduced in the 1930s and made compulsory to farmers by Belgian colonials, offering little in the way of quality incentive or development: Coffee was intended to be a cheap commodity available in abundance, and the colonial government held strict mandates over exports in addition to imposing very high taxes on growers, practically enslaving them to the industry. Roughly 75 percent of the land mass of Rwanda is used for agriculture, and more than 35 percent of its population are subsistence farmers, many of whom rely on coffee for at least a portion of their income.
While coffee became the staple agricultural export by the 1990s (despite very low market prices), its production, along with the national economy in general, was devastated by the genocide in 1994. Nearly 1 million people were killed in the national tragedy, which stalled development and slowed progress for nearly a decade. Targeted programs initiated by the government in the early 2000s encouraged Rwandans to use specialty coffee as one of the means to recover and to create a new niche agricultural market. The erection of the first washing station with USAID support in 2004, and the country was the first to host a Cup of Excellence auction, bringing international recognition to the “Land of a Thousand Hills” as a potential producer of exceptional quality.
Today, this tiny country (roughly the size of Maryland) contributes less than 0.2 percent of the global coffee supply, but its reputation for special quality and unique characteristics—not to mention the incredible story of its development as a specialty-coffee origin since the genocide—have earned Rwanda a significant place at the table among African origins.
The Washed process in Rwanda includes a unique soaking step, not unlike that often found in Kenya. The cherries are delivered to central processing units the day they are harvested, where they will be depulped and fermented in open-air tanks made of concrete or cement for 12–18 hours. After fermentation, the coffees are soaked in water for 24 hours, after which they will have their mucilage removed and be spread on raised beds to dry.
*RFA – Rain Forest Alliace certified