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Rwanda, June 2011

While Stumptown has been visiting Rwanda for years, this is my first trip ever.
I’ve always loved the coffee from Rwanda. A description on an early offering from Stumptown was ‘pomegranate,’ something that has stuck with me since. While this year the coffees we offered showed more complexity and range than any one fruit, their bright but elegant acidity abounds. The Rwanda crop is especially small this year, predicted to be the smallest since the mid-90s. Due to some market conditions that were well broadcast and perhaps over-discussed in the last 6 months, many washing stations paid too much for cherry, speculating that the prices would continue to rise, but since they have lagged lately (just a tiny bit), many of them are holding coffee that they cannot even sell to break even.

In one case, neighbors of Kanzu were so aggressive with their prices paid for cherries that Kanzu barely operated this year, and we fear for our ability to secure coffee from this area; we will be following up with their neighbors. I’m especially desperate to get my cupping spoon back on the Kanzu, which I shorthand describe as being the most cantaloupe-laden coffee I’ve ever had, but we are unfamiliar with the neighbors  and their processing which could preserve what we historically love about that coffee, or ruin it.

We’re delighted to report that early cupping of new crop Muyongwe is delicious: big, chewy body, honey, apricot.

I brought a bag of Marvin Robles to share with our sourcing partners here in Kigali, and explained his (mullet and) operation: front yard beneficio. They got excited and said that they were in touch with a man who operated similarly. While most of Rwanda operates under the centralized washing stations popular throughout East Africa, this guy has a tiny mill that he’s using to process his own cherry. Rwandese Marvin Robles. The coffee is exceptional with lots of brown sugar, cream, dark fruits (like black cherry) and lavender.

Today is Umuganda, a day dedicated to community service that appears to begin with no work and no activity (and no transportation permitted either). Tomorrow we will head for Butare and from there we will be able to visit David Rubanzangabo (Rwandese Marvin Robles). Based on some meetings here in Kigali, there are also some exciting new projects in new locations, many of which are at skyscraping altitudes, and we will visit some of these as well.

On Monday we’ll cross the border into Burundi, stopping in Kayanza. Of course we will be visiting Bwayi and Kinyovu, and as always, some new washing stations.

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