This coffee, from the Cotecaga Washing Station in the Nyamasheke District, represents Ritual Coffee’s first direct sourcing efforts from Rwanda! As a land-locked nation in central east Africa, Rwanda has long fought to fulfill a very promising potential with regard to their coffee production. Despite excellent varieties of coffee and neatly ideal growing conditions, Rwanda has struggled to build the needed infrastructure and quality standards to deliver on that potential.
The Nyamasheke region has always had the weather, soil, and elevation to produce beautiful coffee. However, the end result hasn’t always lived up to its potential, largely due to a lack of infrastructure. However, over the past few years, different projects throughout the country have finally started to create opportunities for these coffees, and their producers, to flourish.
Cotecaga is one of several excellent washing stations in the mountains above Lake Kivu in the very west of the country. Bourbon variety coffee cherries from 1,760 smallholder producers – who own anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand coffee trees – is brought to Cotecaga, where it is depulped and then dry fermented in tanks. Once fermented, the coffee is washed in channels and then soaked again in a second tank for 12-18 hours. After this final soak, the coffee is moved to drying tables where it is hand sorted for defects and insect damage. This hand-sorting is a critical step in reducing the incidence of the notorious potato defect. The coffee is then dried for an average of 18 days.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Rwanda Cotecaga, from Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco, California, courtesy of Craft Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Macuba, Nyamasheke, Rwanda
farm: Cotecaga Washing Station
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1500 – 1900 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Rwanda Cotecaga really grabs me as it wafts up from my mug. Beautiful red berries, fig, and honey submit to floral aromatics of hibiscus and rose hips.
I just took my first sip of the coffee immediately post-brew and, I have to say – I was not expecting this. Right out of the gate, the Cotecaga is dense, deep, and massively-bodied, and it completely envelops the palate. It has a thick, syrupy mouthfeel that is reminiscent of marmalade, honey, molasses, vanilla, and Mexican Coke (cane sugary cola sweetness). Aside from that sugary sweetness that keeps the coffee tethered to the ground with its weight and sheer girth, though, there’s a tart and lively brightness that rises up to the roof of and crashes into the sides of the mouth and nips at the tip and sides of the tongue, with a complex ruby red grapefruit/raspberry/tangerine acidity.
As it cools, the coffee’s profile intensifies as its flavors become more fully realized and fleshed out while its clarity becomes more and more defined the cooler it gets. Furthermore, the individual flavors get a little less compacted and a little easier to identify: lots of red fruits (cherry, tart raspberry, pomegranate, grapefruit, and sweet, sweet apple pie), Bosc pear, and somewhat zesty orange rind. Even the finish of each sip is deeply satisfying as my palate is left with a long, lingering hibiscus, rose hip, citrus, and pistachio after taste.
Full body; supple mouthfeel; citrus/berry (winy) acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
A lot of really great coffees have come out of the Lake Kivu area of Rwanda so far this year. At the onset of 2014, while Ethiopia was the most buzzworthy region of 2013, I predicted that 2014 would be the year of the stellar Kenya; but I’m thinking, particularly after this Rwanda Cotecaga from Ritual Coffee Roasters, that I might be wrong – 2014 might be Rwanda’s time to shine.
Cotecaga took my taste buds by storm from the very first sip to the very last drop. At no point was I not captivated by it; and that’s not hyperbole, Dear Reader , and I’m not blowing smoke – that statement is a matter of fact. Let the record show that I was utterly mesmerized by the Cotecaga. This coffee swirled over my palate in a whirlwind of profile, completely filling every nook and cranny of my mouth; if there was a location in my mouth that was capable of detecting flavor, the Cotecaga was absolutely inundating it with sweet sugary confections, floral aromatics, and bright/tart/juicy red fruits.
Just an outstanding, beautiful coffee.
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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.