The New York Times offers an expansive look at the renewal underway in Rwanda thanks to specialty coffee and, in particular, the PEARL project:

Rwanda, a tiny East African country recently rent by a famously savage civil war, has found hope in that most colonial of crops: coffee. By riding booming demand in the developed world for specialty brews � and, to a certain extent, by turning its own challenges to its advantage � Rwanda has made premium coffee-growing a national priority. That has not only brought in a trickle of money to a country with little else to trade, but provided a stage on which one-time blood enemies can reconcile their terrible history.

A highly recommended read.

Meanwhile, Ken Davids has posted a hat full of reviews of Special Reserve coffees, and in so doing encounters much the same scenario we faced at Green Mountain with our choice for the Colombian First Harvest Cup of Excellence — a single bad bean that threatened the entire lot:

In one very surprising case, a coffee that was headed for a 90+ rating and had won a first-place award in a prestigious international cupping competition turned up with one cup utterly undrinkable owing to a sewery-tasting “stinker bean.” The rest of the cups were consistently impressive.

Such occasions demonstrates how difficult it is to assign numerical ratings to coffees. Do we ignore the one bad cup and give this coffee a great rating on the basis of the other, outstanding cups? Assign a terrible rating because one bad bean snuck through the cleaning and grading? Or average the “good cup” rating and the “bad cup” rating, making the coffee appear mediocre rather than excellent yet flawed?

Unfortunately, Americans tend to buy by the numbers rather than read the fine print, so we didn’t run the review at all. I await accusations of cowardice.

Our take: if you’re not pushing your coffee to the brink in its processing, you may never reach the summit. (But you may miss the final round of judging.) It’s with more than a little relief I find that it wasn’t our Colombian that was thusly dismissed from the resulting reviews. (It wasn’t, and it scored a 91. I can live with that.)

Finally, a teaser from Jim Seven on what appears to be a lifting trend: marketing vintage coffees. Hey, I’ve got a few aged coffees on my big shelf o’ greens. Mind you, some are vintage on purpose — a well-aged Sumatra can do some really interesting things to a blend — but others are remaindered for one reason or another. Anyone care for a 2001 vintage Hawaiian Molokai Dry Process “Muleskinner” Peaberry, or — I kid you not — a 1997 vintage Private Estate Jamaica Blue Mountain? I should roast those up and see how they’ve fared…

More: coffee | news | rwanda | special reserve | reviews | vintage coffee

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