Review: Rwanda Gitesi

Rwanda Lake Kivu 

April, 2016:  I’ve offered this origin each year since 2012, and the cup profile is amazingly consistent. The latest batch arrived in March, 2016, and everything we said below still holds. This is elegant, delicious coffee, especially at the light and medium roasts! I estimate that it would professionally cup at about 91 points on a non-inflated cupping scale. This is what I drink.

The washing station where these beans are processed is located at high altitude  (1740 MASL) above the eastern shore of Lake Kivu in East Africa, across from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s located on the map below:

Rwanda Burundi map

East Africa’s Great Lakes (the arc of lakes running north and south through a very active volcanic area that includes the Rift Valley complex) is a region that is perfect for growing specialty coffees, but political and social upheaval in Rwanda (and Burundi before that) have prevented their coffee industries from developing until recently. However, with NGO technical and business development support, these two small countries are beginning to produce outstanding specialty coffee that sometimes rivals their more famous Kenyan neighbor.

Though the co-op washing station (the local term for where coffee is processed) is located at approximately 1740 MASL, Gitesi’s coffees are grown by small farmers on plots that are much higher, ranging to 2000 MASL or more. The use of Bourbon hybrids and similar processing methods result in a taste profile that is remarkably similar to the best Kenyans (only at a bargain by comparison.)

Tasting Notes

We roasted this bean in three batches: Light (City roast), Medium (C+ to FC), and Dark (FC+-Vienna). After resting the roasted beans for 36 hours, we cupped them with the following impressions.

Light Roast – At the “City Roast” level, the beans look motley and uneven with lots of chaff sticking to the beans. Undeterred, I ground them up, chaff and all, and made some standard cupping pour-over. Wow. The Rwanda is lively, bright, and “Kenyan”, except the citrus is orange or tangerine instead of grapefruit, and there is a nice delicate floral quality to it. Others whose palates I trust who have cupped this coffee taste everything from caramel-vanilla, ginger snap, roses, cane sugar syrup and  apricot blossoms. I agree with T. Owens of Sweet Maria’s: It is amazingly complete at this roast, and it was, by far, my favorite, especially as it cools. As with other East African coffees at light roasts, I’d go for the pour-over rather than the french press for brewing method.

Medium Roast – Taking the roast a bit darker (until the color of the beans began to even out), more caramel emerges and the brightness dims a bit. This is still very nice, only more mellow. The orange notes are still there, with some honey and floral still lingering. I noted some black tea astringency on the finish which was quite pleasant.

Dark Roast – Due to the density of the bean from being grown at high altitude, this coffee can go dark, but there are trade-offs. The cane sugar syrup and honey shifts to dark caramel, and the brightness is noticeably muted. It felt less floral. I detected some dark chocolate in the bottom registers as well. I imagine that some will enjoy a dark Rwandan immensely, especially if they want a dark roast coffee with some brightness.

Bottom line: Give me the Light or Medium Roast on the Rwanda Lake Kivu. Use a pour-over brewing method or even drip. Give me more. This is wonderful stuff!

Enjoy your coffee!


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