Congo is one of the most dangerous and difficult places from which to source coffee. Equal Exchange made a lot of progress in the past three years in getting coffee out of the country, and each year the quality has been improving. We sampled some Congo about 5 years ago and it was some of the worst coffee we've ever tasted, to the point that we still joke about a coffee being "bad, but not Congo bad!" It wasn't until last crop that we actually brought some in to sell, and even then, it was more about helping the cause than it was that we were excited about the coffee itself.
But Congo has made it! This year's crop is exceptional. We bought both the washed and natural processed coffees from the Virunga Coffee Company, which is a South African group of businessmen who have gone into the DR Congo and set up a Fair Trade co-op of roughly 6000 farmers. Through investing, education, and marketing, they have brought the world some crops Congo should be proud of.
The best coffee in Congo is growing around Lake Kivu, which is the same Lake Kivu that Rwanda grows great coffee around (just on the other side of the lake). These are bourbon varietal beans grown at 3000-4000 feet altitude on the Nyiragongo volcano right beside the lake. The coffee reminds me very much of a Rwanda coffee. The Rwanda coffees from a few years ago that were chocolatey and smooth with hints of red fruit, raisins, figs and sweet aftertaste.
We like it just at the verge of 2nd cracks. Roasts lighter than this can venture into grassy vegetal territory. Roasts darker than this lose their sweetness and fruity flavors, although are not altogether unpleasant. We just like it less. Our sweet spot is to end the roast a couple degrees before the 2nd cracks start, but if you hold out and hear a few snaps of the 2nd cracks, you'll be fine.
This is the November 2017 arrival.
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