Congo

Kivu is the general name for East Congo (Kinshasa) and covers a very broad geographical area. It borders on Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Lake Tanganyika on the east. Kivu is divided into three provinces, Nord-Kivu (North Kivu), Sud-Kivu (South Kivu), and Maniema. Primary production includes coffee, cotton, rice, and palm oil, and tin and some gold are mined too. For coffee the quality potential is high, but the political turmoil and power struggles make actual stable business practice a huge challenge.

The Ruwenzori mountains, Kahuzi-Biega National Park, and part of Maiko National Park are part of this region. Most of Kivu was controlled (1961—62) by the breakaway regime of Antoine Gizenga, which was centered at Kisangani (then Stanleyville). Kivu was a base for various rebel groups in the 1990s. Later, a revolt against the central Congolese government at Leopoldville [now Kinshasa] broke out in Kwilu and Kivu provinces.

Since then the Kivu rebels have established a Revolutionary Government of the Eastern Congo with headquarters at Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. (Part of the Congo problem is the direct involvement and support in turmoil sponsored by neighboring governments).

The Ruzizi Valley in Kivu is controlled by the rebels who claim to be led by Patrice Lumumba (who in fact was killed in 1961!!!). With recent elections in Congo, the hope for stability and the continuation of the cease fire is possible. But this is a tumultuous political scene, with rare earth mineral, gold and diamond wealth as inspiration to the various factions. Consequently, the Kivu area is directly affected.

Of course, smallholder coffee farmers are the first to suffer. So in a sense the export of coffee to the US is in itself a positive sign about East Congo stability. What I hope to see next is NGOs and others move in and try to firmly re-establish the coffee trade, rebuild mills, offer education toward specialty coffee production, and install a Fair Trade pricing model.

The fact is, Congo coffee is being exported on the cheap. The price is below fair trade level - the bare minimum we like to pay, with most of our lots offered at higher-than-fair-trade prices. And even though the coffee comes from Cooperatives, it's very difficult to verify how much money actually makes it back to the farmer-members. With a little help, we hope to see this change, keeping fair and transparent business practices as a primary goal. We have encouraging prospects in the DRC, and with overall quality potential being high, there is a lot of interest.

No coffees are currently available from this origin. The review is our most recent offering, provided for reference.
Congo Kivu Bukavu-Beni
Near Congo border and Goma, colorful sculptures
Appearance.8 d per 300g/ 15+ Screen
GradeGrade 3
ProcessingWet Process (Washed)
RegionKivu, Eastern Congo
Varietal(s)Bourbon, Jackson
RoastFull City to Full City+ is ideal, bringing out the darker sweet sugar complexity and taming some of the wild aspects of the cup
It's been years, but here we are with a Congo coffee in the warehouse again! The problems with securing a source for Specialty grade coffee from the Kivu region (East Congo) are innumerable. Politics and the struggle over mineral wealth are at the top of the list, and farmers are the first to be displaced when unrest comes to the region. Fallout from the civil war that technically ended in 2003 means that stability was never truly established. So we hope the offering of a unique Congo lot symbolizes the greater stability that has come to the area. Because this is an early attempt at offering Congo coffee again, and there is more development needed in terms of improving the milling and processing of the coffee. It has a much more rustic cup character than it should, given that it should be similar to the Rwanda coffees from the other side of the Lake Kivu. It has flavors more like a wet-hulled Sumatra coffee. But I find the cup compelling with ample funky sweetness, thick body and fruit. This is a special preparation triple-picked lot from the 4000 farmers of Soprocopiv cooperative, with farms stretching from the south to north along the lake: Bukavu to Beni towns (hence the name). The coffee is all Bourbon varietal, grown between 1500 to 1800 meters. The dry grounds are strongly fruited with dried banana, cantaloupe and cocoa, with vanilla bean accent. Add water and the rustic beast comes out a bit: it has a huge sweetness of muscavado (unprocessed, brown) sugar, complex and hefty fruited notes. Ripe banana comes through, with a fruit salad of scents behind it. The cup is brighter than a Sumatra but has much in common with a Lintong coffee. Fresh tobacco with an earthy twist are the best descriptors for it. I get a bit of jute too. But the undeniable sweetness is there, which overpowers the bittering aspects. Pear, ripe peach and banana all come through. This was a confusing coffee to cup. I took the sample roasts home for a weekend to brew, and thoroughly enjoyed them, which sold me on the general good taste of this coffee. But it's not like other Africa lots, you understand.