Coffee is not native and relatively new to the landlocked East African nation of Rwanda. First introduced in 1904 by the German colonist, it took another three decades before coffee production began to take off under Belgian rule.
The Belgian Colonial government focused on ramping up quantity as much as possible, and as a result Rwandan coffee was notoriously low quality at the time.
Even after gaining independence in 1962, the coffee industry continued to suffer through the 1980’s economic crisis and the subsequent tragic Rwandan Genocide of 1994 where 800,000 people were murdered in just 100 days.
From this unimaginable destruction, Rwanda has underwent a rapid era of rejuvenation with its economy growing steadily at 7% every year, earning a reputation as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.
Coffee production, along with tea exports and tourism, has been a key driver of this economic growth and stability.
This near-miracle has taken place due in part to strong governmental support, trade rules that facilitate exporting, and international investment from NGOs and private companies.
Coffee Production in Rwanda
Today, while Rwanda produces only less than 1% of the world coffee market, they have strategically positioned themselves as one of the ‘go to’ origins for specialty coffee with their continued efforts on improving production and processing practices.
The majority of its coffee is grown by small-scale farmers and their families, most of whom own less than quarter a hectare of land each. Coffee are mainly grown as a part-time gig, with the rest of their farms generally used to grow food.
Coffee harvested from these small farms are then wet processed by communal washing stations which have played a vital role in raising the quantity and quality of Rwandan coffee as a whole.
Almost all of Rwanda’s coffee is Arabica, of which majority are Bourbon and its descending varieties. This is closely guarded by the country’s authority, which guides variety introduction to protect the country’s market.
One of the recurring characteristics of Rwandan coffee is its rich, creamy body and silky texture.
The acidity levels are generally high and bright, similar to other high grown African coffee and also likely to carry hints of floral and fruity flavors reminiscent of Ethiopian coffees.