Rwanda’s coffee history is one of redemption, courage, and unqualified commitment to a better tomorrow. Known as the Land of the Thousand Hills, Rwanda’s geography and topography are near ideal for coffee growing: rich volcanic soil resting on peaks that soar 5,500 – 6,500 feet above sea level, full sun, and a constant equatorial mist.
Legend has it that German missionaries first introduced coffee to Rwanda in the early 1900s. Over the proceeding decades, more and more rural families recognized coffee production’s value and pursed it as their sole source of income. This steady conversion of crop to coffee production placed an emphasis on quantity and resulted in the steady decline of Rwanda’s coffee quality. At the pre-civil war production peak, many growers sold their beans for as little as $1 per pound to large, low-end coffee producers. When the coffee market crashed in the early 2000s, these farmers found they could no longer subsist solely on coffee revenue, uprooted their coffee trees, planted crops, and drastically diminished Rwanda’s coffee industry.
After the 1994 genocide, the Rwandan government, seeking ways to increase national exports, turned to coffee as a keystone for the nation’s future economic survival. The government and numerous international aid agencies, funded coffee washing stations, built newer facilities, and provided free trainings to coffee growers. The government also encouraged the formation of coffee cooperatives, which are vital to ensuring farmers receive the bulk of proceeds from their harvest.
The results of these efforts, coupled with grower enthusiasm, were dramatic. Community collaboration, engagement, and a massive labor force now allow Rwandan growers to exercise extreme discrimination when preparing, harvesting, handpicking, and hand-sorting coffee cherries. Today, Rwandan coffee quality can rival Kenya’s and Ethiopia’s, with over 10% selling to the gourmet coffee market for up to $3.50 per pound.
Karongi, where our particular crop originates, is located in western Rwanda on Lake Kivu’s shores, roughly midway between Gisenyi and Cyangugu. Our Rwandan Karongi, roasted to a full city shade, is wonderfully bright and rich with balanced chocolate and sweet berry notes. This is a wonderful afternoon coffee that will leave you smiling, inspired, and ready to embrace the sprit of potential that brims at the edges of each cup. We recommend enjoying with some chocolate covered strawberries and a large dose of optimism. Click here to purchase this great coffee!