Rwanda — in particular, Rwandan coffee — is enjoying a well-deserved coming out party.
At Green Mountain we celebrated the coffee of Rwanda by offering it as our very first Special Reserve origin. Its reception exceeded our loftiest expectations… Rwanda Karaba-Bourbon proved an exceptionally fragrant, extravagantly sweet and dynamic cup. It sold out within days.
Starbucks, too, is now featuring a Rwandan coffee — Rwandan Blue Bourbon — as their second “Black Apron” release of this year. I’m tasting a cup right now, and it’s easily the most remarkable coffee from Starbucks I’ve tried… period. They have been exceptionally respectful of the origin character, offering this cup as a full city roast rather than their more typical deep-in-second-crack Vienna style.
Counter Culture Coffee, however, beat both of us to the party… they offered their first Rwandan coffee last year, and have followed it with a second coffee — Rwanda Karaba Koakaka — which is available now, and were it not for the vagaries of UPS, would also be on my tasting table. (I’ll offer my tasting notes the moment it arrives.)
Finally, Chicago’s Intelligentsia has a Rwandan offering — or had — as they appear to be waiting on a new lot of coffee at the moment. When it arrives it will be Intelligentsia’s second offering as well.
A common thread among these roasters is an intimate involvement on the ground in Rwanda. Green Mountain’s Lindsey Bolger, Counter Culture’s Peter Giuliano and Intelligentsia’s Geoff Watts have each spent a number of weeks in Rwanda over the last two years, working side-by-side with coffee growers and processors, and establishing the basis for sustainable relationships between coffee growers and coffee roasters. Working in concert with USAID-funded project PEARL, they’ve worked to raise the bar for Rwandan coffee, and to raise awareness of the potential of the origin. Along the way, these coffee ambassadors have done much to raise the spirits of the Rwandan communities they worked in. Their presence, their assistance and their dedication has done great things… and has been welcomed with open arms and warm hearts.
For too long, tiny, landlocked Rwanda has been haunted by its past. A dozen years ago the world watched — horrified, amazed, idle — while nearly one million souls perished in a violent ethnic struggle. The Rwandan genocide has left an indelible mark on its people… on all of us, really. And so Rwanda’s reemergence on the world stage is a profound thing. It’s an event that offers hope, surely, but also — perhaps — redemption.