Two of the smallest countries in the heart of East Africa’s coffee growing highlands produce some of our favorite winter arrivals each year, unique in flavor and in origin. Rolling mountain ranges, cool nights, an abundance of fresh water, and access to legacy Bourbon type cultivated varieties set the stage for excellent flavor profiles. Meanwhile, the investment of in-country resources, including farmer access to education and fertilizer, hints at the dedication of the people who, even at the smallest of imaginable production scales, are producing unmatched coffees. Rwanda coffees range from tea-like to tart, showcasing a range of orange and lemony citrus flavors and are nearly always accompanied by a hint of spice and glossy texture. Burundi coffees grown just to the south provide more intense dark fruit notes accompanied by zesty grapefruit and blackberry flavors, and recently honey and natural coffees are showing a whole new side to the lush, ripe berry and cherry sweetness these processes can impart.
Rarely seen in the United States, Rwanda coffee was, at one time, seen as either a specialty grade or low-end commercial coffee. Having one of the most interesting East African coffee histories, there simply was not that much coffee produced in Rwanda that went anywhere, yet it is where the production of high-quality coffee is inseparably linked to the rising spirit of a population after the tragic genocidal civil war of the 1990s. Known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” many of them are cultivated in high-grown coffee areas between 1700 and 2000 meters. Now, Rwanda coffee is world class, with clean bright flavors that go beyond the best Central America coffees, more balanced than Kenya coffees, pleasing fruit nuances and a subtle sweetness with a floral finish, seemingly like a tea-like finish.
Burundi coffee bears a striking resemblance to that of neighboring Rwanda, in both cup character, and in the culture surrounding coffee. Bourbon-type varietals flourish in both countries and Rwanda has imitated Burundi’s traditional practice of wet-processing coffee cherry. Their cup profiles can be dynamic and bright, with red fruits, berry or citrus, aroma and flavor attributes of baking spices and with a great sweetness lingering through the finish. Burundi is a small landlocked country at the crossroads of East and Central Africa, straddling the crest of the Nile-Congo watershed with beautiful Lake Tanganyika for much of its western border.
Like Rwanda, Burundi is primarily planted in Bourbon, which is grown at high altitudes ranging from 1250 to 2000 meters. Also similar to Rwanda, smallholder farmers of Burundi tend to about 50 to 250 trees. The coffees of Rwanda and Burundi have a lot going for them in terms of roasting. Their bourbon pedigrees grown at great altitudes lend to a crisp and balanced brightness and a lasting sweetness. Now, put these coffees next to bourbons varietals from Central America and look at how similar yet varied they are side by side. Roasting wise, they are extremely similar in how they take the heat, but the Rwanda and Burundi coffees benefit the most from some specific roast profiles.
Check out our Burundi and Rwanda offerings, do a roasting and taste comparison yourself, and you will get hooked on the sheer delight that the flavors from these coffees bring to your personal cupping!
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