Bikes to Rwanda: Happy Birthday!

Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters has been doing some mighty fine things on the ground in Rwanda for a while now. Stumpies have been key players in the PEARL Project, a public / private partnership with USAID and Michican State University to revitalize agriculture¬†— and life — in post-genocide Rwanda. PEARL has, by any measure, done great things, and among them it’s been instrumental in putting Rwandan coffee on the world stage as an emerging — and now preeminent — coffee origin. (Really! have you tasted Rwandan coffee lately? All kinds of awesome.) Above and beyond PEARL, however, Duane Sorenson¬†— Stumptown’s founder and chief protagonist — found a need that had gone unmet. The people harvesting coffee in Rwanda’s hilly terrain had to carry heavy loads of coffee cherry from remote growing regions to washing stations. And they had to do it quickly. Cheaply. Reliably. No matter the weather. Rwandan coffee farmers needed bikes. Back in Portland, Duane started putting things together. He rounded-up a network of avid sport cyclists and bike messengers (naturally…¬†most all those messengers were fueled by Stumptown coffee already) and started fundraising. He held benefit dinners. Awareness-raising rides. And in a matter of months he had spun off a non-profit organization to focus on the effort, and had 260 custom-built cargo bikes in the ground in Rwanda. Today Bikes to Rwanda is a year old. (Happy Birthday!) And to-date they have delivered 400 cargo bikes to Rwanda, opened a bicycle repair shop, arranged innovative financing for coffee growers and more. (Maybe you should think about giving them a tax-deductible birthday present?) Learn all about it: watch...

Tasting: Counter Culture Coffee’s Rwanda Karaba

Rating: [rating:4.5/5] 100 miles east of Kansas City, Missouri, along the route of Highway 24, you’ll find a pecan the size of a UPS delivery truck. Here, at the confluence of the Grand and Missouri rivers, the fertile bottomlands produce not only roadside attractions worthy of Neil Gaiman’s attention (look for it in his latest work, Yet More American Gods) but also prodigious numbers of black-trunked pecan trees standing in sentinel rows as far as the eye can see. And each tree, in turn, produces prodigious pecans… Oh, they’re not the biggest in the land (that title probably goes to Georgia, despite the many-tonned concrete pecan’s hyperbole) but bite for bite, they’re the tastiest you’ll find anywhere. Nutty, sure… but also buttery, warm and sweet. By flavor alone you might mistake them for cashews… but they’re not one bit tropical, but instead Missouri’s favorite native… er, nut. The Coffee In a nutshell, friends and neighbors, this is the surprising flavor of Counter Culture’s Rwandan coffee offering — it’s a nutty, nutty bean. Sourced from the Koakaka coop, and processed at the very same Karaba washing station as Green Mountain’s very spiffy (and long gone) Rwandan Special Reserve offering, Counter Culture’s Rwandan is an exemplary coffee in every way: meticulous preparation, and expert and attentive roasting. Just ground, the coffee offers the intriguing fragrance of coffee blossom and ripe, sweet pears. Brewing, its aroma tantalizes with notes of maple syrup and caramelized sugar. The cup’s brightness is well-controlled in the roast — some acidity has been traded for complexity and warmth — which I think is a good choice. Its...

Rwanda Reborn as a Premiere Origin

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...

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