Lake Kivu, nestled high in Africa’s Kivu province, is boarded by active volcanos on the northeast and southeast and by Africa’s Great Rift Valley to the extreme east. It’s in this serene spot, situated between Zaire and Rwanda, in a temperate environment 5,000 feet above sea level, that these incredible coffee plants grow. When properly cultivated, harvested, and processed, Zaire Kivu coffee can rival even the best Kenyan.
Organically grown on the hills surrounding Lake Kivu, this intriguing African Arabica bean is a story of survival and excellence. Once a burgeoning coffee center, Zaire’s decades of political problems and civil war placed a great strain on the national harvests. War meant that doing even the most basic things — from planting to harvesting and transporting a crop could be extremely dangerous or impossible. Additionally, much of the needed infrastructure required to harvest properly was destroyed during the war, forcing many able farmers to abandon their farms. “Those who continued producing coffee had little access to the international coffee market. To sell their coffee, they had to smuggle their crop into Rwanda, traveling at night in small boats and bartering their beans for food and other essentials. One thousand people drowned each year, simply trying to eke out a living.” (1)
In recent years, Kivu’s coffee production has consistently increased — largely due to the emergence of co-operatives that provide local farmers (at last count, there were 10,000) with access to the international market. The rebirth of Zaire’s coffee industry is providing communities with a sustainable, safe means of subsistence — and giving coffee connoisseurs another great bean to covet!
At Mills / QB, we roast our Zaire Kivu to a full city / Vienna shade to intensify the natural beauty of this bean’s innate African characteristics. Kivu is extraordinary rich (think of a deep cabernet) and bright with deep chocolate and vanilla tones. The aroma is bold and enticing and the flavor is sharp and clean. This is an incredible coffee. Don’t miss out!