History of coffee in Rwanda
Germans brought coffee to Rwanda in 1904. At the time, however, the country was not producing enough to export, but that came to an end in 1917. After World War I, the League of Nations Mandate transferred colonial rights from Germany to Belgium. This is why the bulk of Rwandan coffee was exported to Belgium. In 1930, coffee became a mandatory crop for many producers in the country.
The Belgians had very strict control over exports and made growers pay high taxes. As a result, Rwanda produced large quantities of low quality coffee, which in turn was sold for a low price.
Around 1990 coffee was Rwanda’s most valuable export, but the events that would follow a few years later would put an end to the coffee industry.
In 1994, nearly a million people were killed in the genocide against the Tutsi. The impact on the coffee industry was enormous and this was accompanied by a global fall in coffee prices.
After the genocide, foreign aid and interest flooded into the country, with a focus on the coffee sector. Washing stations were built and there was a desire to produce higher quality coffee. The government began to open up the coffee trade more and buyers of specialty coffee became interested in the region from around the world. The PEARL project (Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages) was successful in spreading knowledge and training young farmers.
Rwanda is the only African country to have hosted the Cup of Excellence competition. This is a project to find the best coffees and market them.
The coffee from Rwanda is of excellent quality and we are proud to tell you about our Rwandese Bèkske.
(Source: Hoffmann, J. (2018). The world atlas of coffee. London, England: Octopus Group).
Bèkske’s unique flavor characteristics come from the right altitude, location, soil and climate. Bèkske’s arabica bourbon coffee beans grow in the fertile volcanic soil on the hills of Nyamurinda. The 1800-2000 meter high hills and the good climate of Rwanda provide our delicious coffee beans. The coffee beans also grow in just one region (the south of Rwanda) and are therefore ‘single origin’ coffees.
Our Rwandan coffee Bèkske meets the strict requirements for ‘specialty coffee’. This means that Bèkske is among the 5% best coffees in the world! Our coffee scores no less than 87/100 points for the requirements and is therefore even included in the ‘excellent’ specialty coffee category.
The quality requirements for specialty coffee have been developed by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). The coffee is assessed on 11 different points by means of a so-called cupping test. During this coffee tasting, an assessment is made of the aroma, aftertaste, sweetness, taste sensation and balance of the coffee, among other things. The taste of our coffee beans can be described as a mix of honey, chocolate, vanilla, fruit and flowers.
Coffee from Rwanda has been regularly named one of the best coffees in the world. High government standards and tight controls from berry to bean ensure quality. Specialty coffee is comparatively more expensive than other coffees. This is partly due to the unique taste characteristics and partly because the farmer has to put in extra labor to produce the coffee, process it and monitor the process. For more information on specialty coffee and its quality requirements, check out the SCA’s website at https://sca.coffee/.
With the previously mentioned cupping method, all coffees are judged as evenly as possible by eliminating the effect of the brewing method. A standard amount of coffee is put into each “cup. The coffee is then ground on a standard setting and then a specific amount of water is added. The coffee is then left to steep for four minutes and finally the layer on top (which consists of floating ground coffee) is stirred. This causes all the coffee to fall to the bottom, where it then stops brewing. Any residue left on top can be removed. When the coffee has cooled, it is tasted with a spoon. The tasters often slurp at this to make the tasting easier. (Source: Hoffmann, J. (2018). The world atlas of coffee. London, England: Octopus Group). macos/deepLFree.translatedWithDeepL.text
The coffee beans are washed and dried by Nyamurinda Coffee Growers Ltd. They then go to roaster Pure Flavor at Fort Isabella in Vught to be roasted in quantities of about 6 kg and according to the traditional method. In this method, the coffee is slowly roasted in a rotating drum at a temperature of about 195 ºC (light roast), 202 ºC (medium roast) or 208 ºC (dark roast). The aroma of the light roast is fruity and you can taste the characteristic properties of the bean: a mix of honey, chocolate, vanilla, fruit and flowers; the taste of the medium roast is slightly stronger with a slightly sour aftertaste; the dark roast has a bitter, but full-bodied taste. A light roast coffee is very suitable for filter coffee, while dark roast is often used for espresso. But since tastes differ, it is of course best to find out for yourself what the most delicious Bèkske is for you.
By Lieselotte Czakert, Lotte Berends, Claudia Berkhof and Xinlei Zhang (outreach students Ilab, Tilburg University)