January 3, 2014 by beanerbar
Amid the tension and instability that plague the Kivu communities in eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a group of small-scale coffee farmers coming together to really make a name for themselves. The last few years, we have seen the development of high quality coffees there, and this year we took it even further to select out small lots from a few unique communities. Each community lot processed at the Tsheya washing station is nuanced, but all the lots are tied together by a bright citrus, stone fruit, and lightly savory notes.
For a few years, we have been seeing the potential of coffees out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has essentially the same geographical conditions and coffee varieties as neighboring Rwanda and Burundi. We have been paying particular attention to the SOPACDI cooperative, which recently completed construction on the first washing station in Eastern Congo to be built in 40 years. Last year, when we tasted an organic, super–high-quality lot from SOPACDI, we knew immediately that we should start working in the DRC and that, of course, means a lot of things. Tim was impressed by SOPACDI on his first visit in 2012, but it was so brief that he didn’t get the sort of sense of the co-op and area that we like to have.
This past year, conflict in this area took hold at the time of year we were planning to visit and we could only meet with the president of the SOPACDI across the border in Rwanda. With so many red flags, this coffee looks to be challenging, and it would have made sense to start slow in our purchasing to mitigate the risks. But we knew that starting slow would mean slow progress, so we threw caution to the wind and decided to GO BIG: this year we committed to and subsequently purchased the first-ever community-separated lots from SOPADCI. We agreed upon an aggressive shipping schedule that would get our lots out of the DRC quickly to ensure the preservation of the quality of each lot, and, now that they’ve arrived, we couldn’t be happier with the success of this project and the quality of the coffee
Over the months to come that we offer this coffee, we will feature six community lots under the heading of Tsheya, which is the name of the community where all the coffee is brought to and processed. All the lots are simply fantastic, and you should pay attention to the evolution of the lot names to see if you can taste the subtle nuances differences between each community.
In the early 2000s, a few hundred farmers came together to improve their coffee processing in hopes of receiving higher prices for it. About five years ago, those farmers, whose organization evolved into the SOPACDI cooperative, finally had a buyer pay attention. That buyer is a UK-based exporter and importer of coffee named Twin, and Twin has really made it possible for Counter Culture to work with the co-op and get great coffee this year. All the hard work the cooperative has done over the last decade shows not only in the coffee’s high quality but also in the sheer number of cooperative members: SOPACDI has grown from a few hundred members initially to a cooperative approaching 4,000 members that receives coffee from over 30 small communities.
Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo
Situated just off the shores of Lake Kivu, the SOPACDI cooperative is based in the town of Minova. Minova at one point was a small town but it has grown a lot in recent years due to a large influx of refugees from Rwanda. Recent news headlines have reported violence in nearby Goma, which is the capital city of the eastern region, and violence in the town of Minova from rebel and army forces is a major problem. Lake Kivu sits at 1460 meters and some communities sit atop mountains that shoot up past 2,000 meters, so it is no wonder that coffee in this area has extraordinary potential, but tragically, political instability makes it nearly impossible for growers to take advantage of what they have in this region and across the country – the DRC is the size of western Europe and it contains minerals, metals, gems and other natural resources that should position it as one of the major economies in sub-Saharan Africa, if not the world.
Lot Specifics: Lake Community Lots
Variety: Bourbon types
Elevation: 1,460 – 2,000
Process: Washed 12-18 hours dry fermentation, 12-18 hours wet fermentation, 12 hour soak
Drying: Raised beds 9-14 days
Harvest Time: March 2013 – June 2013