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Rwanda is the 28th largest coffee producer in the world, with almost half a million micro coffee farms across the country producing over 35 million pounds of coffee annually. Learn about one of our most popular single-origin coffees in the video below.
What you might not know about Rwanda is their intriguing history surrounding coffee production, and what unique flavours you can find in a cup of their coffee. I’ve compiled everything you could possibly need to know about Rwandan coffee in this blog.
The first coffee plants only arrived in Rwanda in 1904, brought over my German missionaries. After this, it took a few more decades before coffee production took off, with low-grade, high volume coffee production beginning around the 1930s. This low quality was often due to the harsh demands of the government before Rwanda gaining independence in the mid-1900s.
Even after Rwanda gained independence, the coffee industry – along with most of the country – suffered a severe hit lasting years in the mid-1990s due to the Rwandan Genocide. While the industry seemed to be on its last legs, it wasn’t given up on. Instead, farmers developed new strategies, turning to high-end coffee production – a decision that would reinvent the coffee industry throughout Rwanda.
In 1994, the Rwandan Genocide prompted USAID to invest in infrastructure and proper training for coffee producers to support coffee production throughout the country.
Current Rwandan Coffee Industry State
Nowadays, Rwanda is one of the top 30 coffee producers in the world, exporting dozens of millions of pounds a year. The country has almost 500,000 micro coffee farms, housing only a few hundred high-quality coffee trees each. 95% of the coffee produced is of the Bourbon varietal.
USAID’s PEARL program has organised farmer cooperatives and trained its members in proper farming techniques, coffee processing, quality control, and marketing. Specialty roasters in the US have played a direct role in the improvement of Rwandan coffee quality; many have built close relationships with the cooperatives.
The growing regions in Rwanda are at a high elevation, varying between 1220 to 1980 metres above sea level. The growing season begins around September or October, continuing through to the harvest season, which takes place between March and July.
Some of the most popular and well-known coffee growing regions include Ngoma, Virunga, Muhazi, Kivu, Kizi Rift, and Akagera. But there are also lots of tiny regions that aren’t as well known but equally as amazing. We’re lucky enough to get our hands on some excellent bourbon coffees from one of Rwanda’s tiniest origins: Karenge coffee beans and we’re selling them online for the month of May 2020 – if you want to learn more about them, you can read our in-depth profile on Karenge – Rwanda’s hidden coffee secret region.
Due to the high number of micro-farms, and the fact that many coffee growers do so as a side gig with the rest of their farm used to grow food, Rwandan coffee is often wet-processed at government-funded communal washing stations. This access to decent washing stations was one of the key factors that assisted in raising the quality of Rwandan coffee. However, a small number of farms prefer the natural processing method.
As you breathe in this coffee, you’ll get beautifully strong scents of orange blossom and lemon. Rwandan coffee is quite florally and fruity, with redcurrant and berry flavours coming through clearly as you take a sip. With a rich and creamy body, Rwandan coffee goes down a treat, followed by aftertastes of creamy caramel and white chocolate. Acidity levels are high and bright, reminiscent of Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees.
These flavours will have more clarity and abundance when served without milk, but Rwandan coffee also goes beautifully with milk.
Our Rwandan Karenge coffee is available in-store now.