Rwanda Coffee: Everything You Need To Know About One Of The Best Coffee In the World

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Rwanda Coffee

Rwanda Coffee: At initial observation, those Rwandan coffee beans displayed on the store counter may seem like just another unremarkable bag of beans with an omitted vowel in its name.

However, the compelling and poignant history of the Rwandan coffee industry has not only preserved coffee production in the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, but it has also elevated it to become one of the most coveted coffees globally.

Some Fascinating Aspects of Rwandan Coffee Beans

Rwandan coffee boasts a vibrant history and an equally exciting flavor profile. Here are some key points about the Rwandan coffee journey.

A Quick Overview of Rwanda Coffee History

Rwanda, a small, landlocked nation in East Africa, is situated not far from Kenya, a global leader in coffee production. Coffee plants first arrived in Rwanda at the start of the 20th century, but it wasn’t until three decades later that coffee production in Rwanda began to flourish.

Initially, while the volume of coffee produced was substantial, the quality was somewhat lacking. The coffee beans grown in Rwanda were of a relatively low grade, largely due to the stringent demands of the colonial government before the country achieved independence mid-century. The coffee industry faced significant challenges in the 1990s due to crises in both the coffee world and Rwanda itself. By the dawn of the new millennium, the industry was in a state of disarray.

However, the farmers didn’t abandon their coffee endeavors. Instead, they pivoted towards the realm of high-end coffees. A National Coffee Strategy was devised that revolutionized their coffee industry.

In the two decades since, Rwanda has emerged as one of the top thirty largest coffee-growing countries globally. Rwandan coffee exports typically amount to dozens of millions of pounds per year, barring any disruptions due to internal issues. The majority of this production originates from small farms rather than larger estates.

Coffee Cultivation in Rwanda

Rwanda Coffee: Most coffee plantations in Rwanda are situated at high altitudes, typically between 4,000 and 6,500 feet above sea level. This altitude provides an ideal environment for coffee plants to thrive and produce superior quality beans. Notably, 95% of these farms cultivate not just Arabica coffee plants, but the highest quality Rwandan bourbon coffee variety, including the Mayaguez variety.

The local growing season usually commences in September or October and extends until the harvest period between March and July, with the peak harvest period starting from May.

Processing Coffee in Rwanda

Coffee in Rwanda is predominantly wet processed. This is largely due to modern initiatives to invest time, effort, and resources into establishing communal washing stations for the numerous small-scale coffee crops that require processing annually.

Given that most farmers engage in coffee cultivation as a part-time activity, with the rest of their farms dedicated to food production, they cannot establish large, individual washing stations like the major coffee estates worldwide. Therefore, the investment in these washing stations has proven beneficial, as access to proper washing facilities has significantly improved the quantity and quality of Rwandan coffee.

Flavor Profile of Rwandan Coffee Beans

While there are various aspects, flavors, and subtle differences among Rwandan coffee varieties, some elements are consistently present regardless of the coffee’s origin within the country. One such recurring characteristic is the rich, creamy body, silky texture, and a somewhat buttery overtone.

However, this creaminess is just the beginning. The beans are likely to stimulate your senses with floral, fruity, and citrusy flavors before and after tasting the coffee, followed by a slight savory tone. The floral notes are reminiscent of certain Ethiopian coffees, with many boasting hints of caramelized sugar, cloves, nuts, and cinnamon.

The acidity levels are high and bright, and tend to be both sweet and savory, largely due to the growing climate and altitude. As a result, Rwandan coffee tends to have a similar acidity to Kenyan coffee.

Rwanda Coffee taste:

– Aroma: Hints of orange blossom and lemon
– Taste: Floral mixed with a fruity, redcurrant, and berry flavor
– Aftertaste: Rich caramel and white chocolate

 Notable Mentions

There are many coffee-growing regions in Rwanda, but some are more prominent than others. The western regions of the country and the capital region of Kigali are filled with plantations and are considered the nation’s main coffee-growing hubs.

In the east, where most of the land is a national reserve, the only exception for coffee cultivation is around Lake Kivu. However, the coffee grown in this fertile environment is indeed exceptional. Kivu coffees are grown at high altitudes and can be delicate, incredibly complex, and dessert-like in nature, with a profile that includes hints of sweet orange, cherry, lime, and cocoa. They are excellent for both espresso and drip brewing methods. If you ever find yourself in the Lake Kivu region, you can even take a coffee tour from crop to cup!

The Current State of the Rwanda Coffee Industry

Despite the crises of the 1990s leaving Rwandan coffee growers in a difficult position, the industry didn’t shut down. Instead, since the early 2000s, the resilient coffee growers have worked wonders.

Rwanda Coffee: They transformed their industrial, cheap, and damaged infrastructure into a new entity focused not on producing large quantities of cheap beans, but rather smaller quantities of some of the best beans in the world. As previously mentioned, part of this rapid recovery included a shift towards growing more Arabica crops on smaller estates. Currently, there are nearly half a million micro-coffee farms, each with small plots of only a few hundred high-quality coffee plants.

All these farms collectively contribute to the globally renowned national coffee industry of Rwanda. A significant challenge for Rwanda has been the difficulty in getting the beans to the international market before they spoil. However, the communal washing stations and government funding have helped local farmers streamline their process enough to make coffee a more valuable crop.

So, while there are still tentative elements to the Rwandan coffee industry, overall, things are looking promising!

Best Brew Methods for Rwandan Coffee Beans

The gentle and delicate flavor profile of Rwandan coffee beans is best suited to certain brewing methods.

Rwanda Coffee: Our official recommendation for brewing these beans is to use a filter method like a pour over or drip coffee maker. The primary goal is to use a method that isn’t too intense (like immersion with a French press, for example). Using a gentler brewing process helps to bring out those subtle floral and citrusy flavors without extracting so much that it overwhelms the cup.

Another reason to use a pour over method is that most require a finer grind, like those used with Chemex and drip coffee methods, allowing you to extract as much flavor from the beans as possible without the intense “oomph” that an immersion process delivers.

Optimal Roasting Levels for Rwandan Coffee Beans

Roasting Rwandan coffee offers a spectrum of roasting levels to explore. Given the high altitude at which these beans are grown, they are quite dense, which means they can handle a robust amount of heat during roasting. Applying too little heat might result in under-roasting, akin to baking rather than roasting.

A lighter roast will highlight a more acidic and fruity flavor profile, which is a delightful aspect of these beans that shouldn’t be overlooked. Conversely, Rwandan beans also shine with a City roast, maintaining their quality even as they progress to darker roasts.

Select Rwandan Coffees to Consider

With a variety of Rwandan coffee brands available online, securing a consistent supply can be a challenge due to the fluctuating factors impacting the Rwandan coffee industry.

Here are some top selections for Rwandan coffee beans:

– Broadsheet Kanzu Natural: This light-medium roast from the Nyamasheke region is known for its notes of strawberry, plum jam, and demerara sugar. The Kanzu washing station is celebrated for its quality, and government support has improved local farming and processing practices. This naturally processed coffee pairs the bright acidity typical of Rwandan coffee with the sweetness from sun-drying, offering a complex and unique cup.

-Cooper’s Cask Coffee Rwanda: This medium roast from the Gitesi Site region offers a sweet and complex brew, with notes of honey, brown sugar, caramel, and a subtle ginger spice. The Bourbon varietal beans, grown at high elevations, develop a rich flavor complexity.

– Rwanda Humure: This medium roast from the Remera Sector, Gatsibo District region, features flavors of cranberry, brown sugar, and lime. Portrait Coffee, an artisan roastery, presents this washed coffee that exemplifies the sweet-and-tart profile Rwanda is known for. The medium roast level caramelizes the sugars just enough to balance the acidity, making it suitable for various brewing methods.

The Significance of Rwandan Coffee

The coffee from Rwanda carries with it a narrative of hardship and resilience. The determination of Rwandan coffee farmers has infused their coffee with a deeper significance, making it a uniquely special brew on the world stage.

Brewing Recommendations for Rwandan Coffee Beans

Rwanda Coffee: The nuanced and delicate flavors of Rwandan coffee beans are best showcased through specific brewing methods. A filter method, such as pour over or drip coffee maker, is recommended to gently extract the beans’ subtle floral and citrus notes. These methods, which often require a finer grind, allow for a full flavor extraction without overpowering the coffee’s inherent qualities. The aim is to avoid brewing techniques that may be too intense and overshadow the bean’s delicate profile.

A Remarkable Coffee Emerged from Trials and Tribulations

While Rwandan coffee carries a significant burden of grief and tragedy, the resilience and optimism that Rwandan coffee farmers have displayed in the face of adversity have imbued their coffee with profound depth.

This results in a brew that is not only uniquely special but also symbolizes hope and triumph, making it one of the most meaningful offerings in the world of coffee.