Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of Bourbon. The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu and in the southern province.
Rwandan smallholders organise themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet-mills – or washing stations as they are known locally.
The Karengera washing station is in the Nyamasheke district of Western Rwanda that is situated near Lake Kivu and services 2600 farmers who produce coffee at altitudes of 1,650 metres above sea level. Red Bourbon, washed and sun dried on raised African beds.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Rwanda Karengera Cyivugiza, from Coffee Mojo in Wicklow, Ireland. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Western Province, Rwanda
farm: Karengera Washing Station
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Karengera Cyivugiza Cooperative
elevation: 1780 – 1860 meters above sea level
cultivars: Red Bourbon
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The Rwanda Karengera Cyivugiza’s aroma is alluring and enticing; brewing it has my neighbors floating in the air toward my kitchen, like Mickey Mouse being drawn by the magnetic scent of fresh-baked pie. Beautiful scents of chocolate and violet aromatics combine with mixed berries, honey, and baking spices to create a unique aroma experience.
Diving into my first few sips of the coffee immediately post brew, my taste buds are treated with flavors that would make a confectioner gush with adoration. Not only is there a nice raw cocoa nib quality to the flavor, there’s also a thick, decadent chocolate cake quality to it – like a German bundt cake; which of course is compounded by the further flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, bakers spices, and brown sugar that show up in the finish of each sip. There’s even a bit of black currant and raisin showing up in the early going.
As the cup cools off, it takes a very unexpected turn as it bursts to life with a flourish of juicy tropical fruits. Name your favorite fruit flavor – odds are, it makes an appearance in this coffee. It kicks off with an incredibly juicy blood orange, before progressing into sharply tart flavors of grapefruit, mango, papaya, guava, and pineapple, all of which are complemented by sweet tones of maraschino cherry and red delicious apple.
Full body; juicy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
It’s been a while since I last had a really, really great Rwandan coffee (that is in no way a comment on Rwandan coffee – it’s a comment on time). The Karengera Cyivugiza, from Mojo Coffee, made me regret the amount of time in between.
This coffee was wild and adventurous, but sweet and delightful as well. It was equal parts pastry shop and Carmen Miranda headwear with its bedrock of cocoa and brown sugar and its bright, explosive tropical fruits.
The Karengera Cyivugiza really took me by surprise.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.