With our new Rwanda lots in I figured it was high time to put them all side by side and consider how they represent Rwanda coffee, how they're different from each other, and what they could add to a roaster's line up. The coffee from Rwanda are exceptionally versatile. They often show exotic floral attributes, complex honey and cola sweetness, and bright and brilliant acidity that can also be tamed and balanced. The predominant characteristics of these coffees are the cola and cocoa sweetness, a jasmine floral quality, and the mandarin orange acidity. Within and around these central attributes are a number of other characteristics such as spice and tea-like flavors that can be showcased through the roasting.
These coffees roast magnificently, in that they can really take the heat, and you can go into Full City and Roasted Coffee Pictorial Guide. ">Full City+ without them wilting beneath the roast. In fact they'll still show plenty of sweet cherry with the cola, cocoa and vanilla in the finish. You can also stretch the drying phase of these coffees for espresso or other uses without thinning them out too much, adding more dimension to the sweetness.
These are great coffees for folks who are generally more comfortable drinking Central and South American offerings. As single origin espressos they run the range of sparkling acidity to dense and syrupy sweet. This is because of their Bourbon variety stock, as well as great preparation and processing. To me this really speaks to the idea of looking at a coffee's cup profile rather than simply looking for a coffee's origin. This doesn't diminish the work we put in at origin, but rather is a good example of all the factors one must consider when filling out their offer coffee list.
Is there potato? Unfortunately that is always a risk with Rwandas, even these meticulously sorted and well prepared lots. You can be proactive about it by grinding small amounts at a time and encouraging others to do so. I always grind just around 10 grams at a time when I'm brewing. I'll grind and then dump in the filter, grind and then dump, keeping it separated until I'm sure it's free of defect. This makes it easier to keep what is usually one single bean out of thousands ruin a whole batch, and it's completely manageable. For more about this as well as approaches to roasting coffees from Rwanda see: http://coffeeshrub.com/shrub/content/coffee-shrub-rwanda-burundi-fundame...
Karenge Coffee Villages
The grounds have malt and honey sweetness in their fragrance with a slight cherry and citrus note. The aroma has a little more of the cherry and is a little maltier on the break. Even in warm cup there's a bright citrus right up front with a slight floral finish with a dry tea-like quality. As the cup cools there's still the light jasmine floral in the finish and a more overt mandarin orange, finishing clean and simple. There's also more dry cocoa in the cool cup which pairs well with the orange. Would be a really nice iced coffee as well as a bright and clean single origin espresso.
The dry fragrance is bright! Lots of orange and more milk chocolate than dry dark cocoa. There's a more sugary sweetness that comes out in the wet aroma. The cup is bright orange with a surprising hibiscus and rose hip tea like finish. Though this has a more tea-like character in it's flavors and mouthfeel all together, it still has a lot of presence body-wise in the middle of the palate. There's a vanilla note in cool cup which is still dominated by orange and hibiscus, this is the brightest coffee of the bunch easily, and it's a nice body too. The sparkling qualities make this probably a better candidate for your lighter roasts.
For me, this coffee has the most floral fragrance of the three with both jasmine and a deeper violet note paired with dark cocoa sweetness. The aroma is sweeter than the others, and the brightness is present but exceptionally balanced. The body of this coffee is tremendously syrupy, rich with honey, a complex floral honey, with the violet note through the finish. I felt this was the most complete of the three if not the most brilliant acidity wise. More floral than fruity with a balanced acidity. As it cools it's all orange juice but still great balanced acidity with jasmine and violet notes throughout.
Small Holders Mutovu Cooperative
This is a perfect example of one of these Rwandan bourbon coffees that almost cups like the most pristine Guatemalas or El Salvadors. Caramel is the main character at every stage. The grounds, the break and all through the cup from warm to cool. There's also some black cherry, or even blackberry, and honey graham in the dry fragrance, with the honey sweetness carrying through the break. Like the Kanzu, this is a very sweet focused cup. The caramel and honey are potent in the warm cup, but this is a more overtly fruited cup than the Kanzu if not as syrupy in mouthfeel. It really is uncanny how the honey and caramel flavors at every temperature. I even came back after hours to the cup and it tasted like a melted candy bar.