Travel Log: Rwanda Cup of Gold 2007

My first trip to Africa was a truly inspiring visit. It was a short 24 hour jaunt from Seattle to Chicago, DC to Brussels, and finally from Brussels to Kigali. I arrived in the evening and was off to Butare the next morning to hook up with Dr. Tim Schilling, other coffee judges and the staff of Spread, which is the offspring of the multi-million dollar Pearl project funded by USAID, other US and private institutions and the country of Rwanda. This project (spear-headed by Dr. Shilling since 2000) has been improving on the quality of coffee throughout the country of Rwanda with the addition of specialized washing stations and refined agricultural methods, supply chains and processing. The continued improvement in these coffees has now resulted in the development of the Cup of Excellence program in Rwanda. For the last three years Dr. Schilling, Susie Spindler and Ann Ottaway, other Rwanda staff and other COE assistants and jurors have been working relentlessly on getting Rwanda to this point. Thus The Rwanda Golden Cup competition of 2007 is the precursor to the 2008 Rwanda Cup of Excellence program and competition. That said, I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the judges for this year's Rwanda Golden Cup coffee competition. There was three days of cupping and judging starting with 44 coffees that the Rwanda National cuppers had whittled down to scores of 84 or better.

Rwanda coffees are the result of over 500,000 farmers and the coffees from the Golden Cup competition are the best Rwanda has to offer. These coffees are brought together in over 145 local washing stations some privately owned but most local co-operatives. The final 20 best coffees came from 20 washing stations from all four of the Provinces of Rwanda and 10 districts. The final day of cupping brought five coffees with scores over 90 (presidential award winners), and another 15 with scores over 84.

Saturday came and the first competition for Rwanda's best coffees was over resulting in the best prices ever achieved for Rwanda coffees. The 1st place coffee went for over $25.00 and bidding was fierce. Zoka jumped in at the #2 coffee along with Coffee Hunters and then we went after the # 5 and 6, 8, 10 and 12 coffees. And we were successful in all of our bids. On all of these coffees, I had given scores of 88 or better and two of them scores of over 90. This was truly a great day for Zoka. Yes, we are very lucky to have been a part of the first competition of Rwanda coffees, and to be so fortunate to be taking home some of the best. Look for these coffees on our menu starting in November.

Having been part of such a great competition, I was also fortunate to see five of the coffee washing stations that our coffees come from and to meet the directors and presidents of these co-ops. The washing stations I visited were Ngoma, Ucar, Cyiya, Ngoma CWS, and COCAF Amizero from the districts of Nyamagabe, Kaonyi, Nyamagabe, Nyamasheke, and Gatsibo. All the varieties are from the Bourbon species, the #2 Ngoma is a Bourbon species named BM139. I spent two days seeing each of the washing stations as well as the countryside and magnificent Lake Kivu. Yes the coffees are in, they are great and I can't wait to go back…Jeff