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Rwanda: home to Africa’s second best coffee

We all have our own stories of how we slipped into severe coffee addiction. For many people, it all begins in Africa. After all, Karen Blixen had a coffee farm in Africa, not some Danish potato farm. The continent is one of the biggest exporters of coffee into Europe and Americas, however, African countries do not really make it to the rankings of highest coffee consumption per capita, save for Algeria and Tunisia. Strangely enough, all of Kenya’s finest coffee goes for export, and not much of it is left for internal use. Tanzania’s coffee is, mildly speaking, garbage. Ugandan coffee is just OK. But there are other Eastern African countries that have hit the nail on the head when it comes to producing stellar coffee.

Rwandan coffee

Rwanda is one country that knows its coffee. Its coffee is exclusively Arabica, grown at high altitudes and on the blue banks of Lake Kivu, which makes sense since Rwanda is known in the region as the Land of a Thousand Hills. The harvest happens from March to July, during the rainy season. The beans are wet-processed, and cooperatives operating in the country allow the coffee to be distributed within Rwanda and overseas, providing stable income to the farmers.

Rwandan coffee beans

In fact, Rwanda’s improving coffee production sprung after the tragedies of 1994 genocide, with the need to rebuild country’s economy and international reputation. Rwanda had grown coffee in colonial times as well, but the early 2000s marked the growth in production of premium coffee, suitable and beloved on the global market due to its mild acidity and smooth taste.

Bourbon Coffee: Rwanda’s biggest coffee chain

Rwanda’s biggest coffee chain, Bourbon Coffee, opened in 2007, with the aim to make large impact on the local coffee production and bring profitable business to the coffee farmers of Rwanda. The ample modern cafeterias are scattered over Kigali and provide free WiFi and wide range of hot and cold coffee beverages with the use of Rwanda’s best dark roast. Strictly-speaking, this is where Kigali began for me: on the terrace of Bourbon Coffee. Whether it is the altitude, the volcanic mineral-rich soils, or the generous rains of the Land of a Thousand Hills, but around a decade ago, British company Meantime Brewery even chose Rwandan coffee beans to produce the first coffee beer.

Rwanda Coffee Plantation

The velvety taste with vanilla and chocolate hints made Rwandan coffee most suitable for their 4% alcoholic beverage, which proudly carries the Fair Trade logo.

The best coffee in Africa

In case you were wondering, the best coffee in Africa is in Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is probably the motherland of coffee, and society here went so far as to establish a whole coffee ceremony, during which you can watch your coffee being prepared in a traditional jebena pot, clouded in smoke of burning incense. Ethiopian coffee is strong, with aromatic, earthy tones, and once you try it, you’ll understand why it reigns supreme.

Javier Luque is a Co-Founder and Director of Your African Safari.

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  1. A little generalization there. I don’t think all Tanzanian coffees are garbage. In fact, I find the comment ignorant and unnecessary. I have roasted many wonderful Tanzanian coffees in the past and am roasting some fine peaberries now. AS for saying one country is better than another, it’s presumptive and again an unnecessary generalization. It all depends on what you are looking for in terms of flavour and aroma and what you want to balance in your roasts.

  2. This was a very interesting post. I am showing my ignorance, but I was not aware that coffee was so big in Ethiopia. Now I know. Thanks for enlightening me :)

  3. The results of the Rwanda Cup of Excellence during recent years illustrate the capacity to produce excellent, fully washed arabica coffees.

    Alan Finney
    Coffee Technologist

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