RWANDA MAY 2015

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Back in May, we headed out for our first trip to Rwanda. We have just released the first of three coffees we bought on the trip and it seems an apt time to examine how we are now working in Rwanda and why we want to increase our volumes and involvement in this great little country.

Rwanda has been a key origin since the earliest days of Small Batch and we’ve always loved the balanced bourbon coffees the country produces. It was not however, among our biggest origins in terms of volume due to unreliability in availability and shipping and the problem of the potato defect (more on this later). As we have grown we have been looking at origins from which we can expand our buying. In that same time we have seen several things happening that make a Rwanda a great fit for our needs. Firstly the quality of the coffee continues to improve and we are seeing more diversification and complexity in terms of cup profile. Secondly, infrastructure (and crucially, shipping) has improved a lot.

This is very important for a landlocked African country. In the past, coffees harvested in April and May might not reach the UK until December or January which is less than ideal. We are now receiving Rwandan coffee in late September and October meaning that it is super fresh and plugs the gaps in our offer list left by departing Central American and other African coffees at this time of year. Finally, we are seeing less and less potato defects in the cups. Potato Taste Defect or PTD is a bizarre phenomenon that sounds unlikely until you experience it. If you grind a roasted bean infected with PTD you cannot miss the unmistakeable smell of raw, peeled potatoes. The taste is as strong and unpleasant as the smell and can ruin a whole cup, or worse, a whole bag of coffee if it is all ground together.

PTD is caused by the local Antestia bug, which feeds on coffee cherries but not the coffee bean itself. The damage caused to the cherry allows microorganisms to infect the fruit creating off flavours. This means that damage caused by Antestia can only be seen in cherries or coffee still in parchment. Crucially the damage is not visible in a green coffee bean ready for roasting unlike most other insect damage that occurs in coffee.

Debora Soares