Harvested between March and June, this bourbon coffee is sourced from a collective of family owned farms located near the Rwanda Musasa Mill in the Gakenke District of Rwanda. Grown between 1,500 – 2,000 feet on volcanic loam soil, this coffee is fully washed and then dried in raised beds. At the higher altitudes the coffee takes longer to ripen; it also means fairly cool fermentation temperatures when performing the wet process on the coffee, and long fermentation times. This, along with the careful cherry sorting before and after picking from the tree, and the Bourbon cultivar, greatly influences the Rwanda flavor profile.
In 2000, the Dakunda Kawa Cooperative was formed, with enough funds to build their first wet mill. They have since built another three wet mills and one dry mill. The quality of this coffee has been recognized world wide, consistently placing as one of the best in the Cup of the Excellence annual auction.
Multiple sustainability-minded organizations have supported the Cooperative’s efforts to elevate living standards by investing in livestock, better access to healthcare and environmental protection programs. The project “Responding to Climate Change: Building Community-Based Reliance” was awarded the 2012 Sustainability Award from The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re cupping the Rwanda Musasa, from Compelling Coffee in Los Angeles, California. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Gakenke, Rwanda
farm: Rwanda Musasa Mill
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Dukunde Kawa Cooperative
elevation: 1500 – 2000 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Rwanda Musasa is a sweet one, and indicative of a classic Rwandan profile—a pleasant mix of florals, sugars, and dark fruits. Lavender, honey, stone fruit, dark berries, black tea…
My first few sips present a coffee that is full-bodied—voluptuous, even—with a silky, buoyant mouthfeel. There is a smooth, sweet honey flavor that coats the tongue, with additional sweetness coming from brown sugar and faint vanilla notes. There are also plenty of sweet, fleshy fruit flavors post-brew—they are at the forefront of each sip, and increase in clarity as the cup cools: peach, bosc pear, black plum, red-winy mixed berries (cranberry, raspberry, blackberry), and a complex citric acidity. There’s something to the coffee that pricks at and tingles my taste buds; I thought it was red wine tannins but, now that the coffee is at room temperature, I’m now perceiving it more as cedar. Black tea plays through a slightly dry finish which, coupled with the cedar flavor, is reminiscent of Lapsang Souchong.
I put out a tweet a while back asking for coffee recommendations, and Compelling Coffee immediately followed up with me raving about a Rwandan coffee that was blowing his mind, but wouldn’t be available for another week or so. I was really hoping to buy something that day, but Compelling was so excited about this coffee and assured me it’d be worth the wait.
And you know what? It was.
Compelling Coffee’s Rwanda Musasa provided an excellent cupping experience; it’s a classic Rwandan coffee with just enough complexity (particularly in its berry/citrus acidity) and nuance to provide a few surprises along the way.
*content courtesy of Slate Coffee Roasters
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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.