I was able to get our hands on some of the newest single origin coffee that Montana Coffee Traders (MCT) is roasting from Rwanda. For several years now, Montana Coffee Traders has sourced coffees from Rwanda and Burundi, helping to build important relationships with growers and co-ops, and furthering those two country's growing specialty coffee industries. MCT has always carried coffees from East Africa, but what is happening right now in Rwanda is just so special - Rwanda was the first country in Africa to enter coffees in the Cup of Excellence, and much of the leadership of membership co-ops are women run. So I decided to choose this coffee as a single origin offering at my coffee bar and write about it in my very first blog post.
Alison Chopp, Montana Coffee Traders' Green Coffee Buyer, visited Rwanda in 2016 with members of TransFair USA and toured both TransFair member co-ops and non-members. Her trip allowed her to witness the amazing things that these co-ops are doing in their own communities. Of the three she visited, two were TransFair member co-ops and the third, Bufundu, was not. Interestingly, Bufundu is able to pay it's farmers and co-op members more than the TransFair members, but they are not able to provide dollars during the non-producing months of the year - something TransFair member co-ops are able to do. There is an economic trade-off where the Bufundu co-op still provides great economic incentive for it's coffee growing members to be involved in the co-op, can save money by not paying the annual TransFair certification membership price, but cannot enjoy the TransFair label for export on its coffee. It's a balanced decision by the membership, and it makes sense in this current world of direct trade coffee.
Rwanda Bufundu's coffee, when cupped, displayed cupping notes of plum, sweet rose, citrus, creamy mouth-feel, and light body. As a coffee in our shop, it performed marvelously as a single origin espresso and through AeroPress. Being so lovely and light, we preferred to serve it just as espresso or americano. Cortados were also very nice, but adding any more milk than that would over power the delicate character of the coffee.
Montana Coffee Traders is planning on purchasing more coffee from Rwanda, and we look forward to seeing what they have to offer in the future. It's so exciting to know that Rwanda will continue to grow it's specialty coffee sector and likely achieve quality coffees to rival Africa's leaders in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.