Bean review: Rwandan coffees from Workshop
We were delighted to sample these three wonderful, distinctive Rwandan coffees from Workshop - a company name now synonymous with excellence in coffee. We enjoyed tasting these coffees so much at our cupping session that afterwards it felt almost as if we had eaten a whole fruit bowl as the aftertastes mingled. These are coffees with unique flavour profiles and fascinating stories.
Rwanda, long associated with terrible genocide and conflict, is thankfully seemingly in an upward trajectory in terms of justice, peace and prosperity. This temperate, landlocked country is almost entirely at altitude and very well suited to coffee growing. Indeed, upwards of 50% of Rwanda’s export consists of coffee. Having an economy dependent on agriculture exports however can mean dependency on commodity prices decided by gamblers on the stock market. Speciality coffee, with its more equitable and stable pricing structure is thus vitally important to the future of Rwanda.
Workshop have worked with farmers in Rwanda since 2011 and specifically with producers Buf who have grown and processed two of the coffees reviewed here. Buf Cafe have an incredible story. Epiphany Mukashyaka lost her husband child and large numbers of her extended family to the Rwandan genocide in the mid-1990s. Still grieving, she had to find a way to support her seven remaining children. She did this by tending her late husband’s coffee trees. In 1990, Tim Schilling persuaded Epiphany to focus on the nascent speciality market with its higher prices and quality and since Buf has gone from strength to strength: helping to bring electricity, water and jobs to the town and raising coffee quality year on year. Her son Sam now manages Buf Cafe.
There’s the story. What of the coffee?
Produced by Buf Cafe, this is a special coffee indeed. Improvements in lot separation and labelling have meant that Workshop could choose specific coffee cherry collection points as well as harvest dates and washing stations. This coffee had notes of red apple (well that was the closest I got to what Workshop accurately describe as cherry brandy – to me maybe more cherry cola), moist sweet Jamaican ginger cake, cocoa and white grape. Essential.
Producer: Buf Cafe | Varietal: Red Bourbon | Process: Dry fermented, soaked and washed | Phil's tasting notes: red apple, cherry cola, Jamaican ginger cake, cocoa and white grape | £10.00 for 250g
Another from Sam at Buf Cafe, the Miko was very distinct from the Gataba. Dominated by stone fruit notes of peach and apricot, there were hints of dried pineapple and mango too. It was a very juicy cup with lovely wine-like mouthfeel. Highly recommended.
Producer: Buf Cafe | Varietal: Red Bourbon | Process: Dry fermented, soaked and washed | Phil's tasting notes: peach, apricot, dried mango, dried pineapple | £10.00 for 250g
This is the second year Workshop have bought coffee from Fred Kasigwa of Motherland Farmers. The tiny lot Workshop have purchased has been shade dried for 35 days. It’s a refreshing cup dominated by juicy mandarin with hints of honey and dried ginger.
Producer: Motherland Farmers | Varietal: Red Bourbon | Process: Washed and shade dried | Phil's tasting notes: mandarin, honey and dried ginger | £11.00 for 250g