Coffee of the Week: Fair Trade Rwandan COOPAC from Barista’s Beans

The Kivu region of Rwanda
Rwanda's Kivu region produces great-tasting coffee

I try a different coffee pretty much every week. This week I had my first taste of Rwanda, in the form of Rwandan COOPAC from local micro-roaster Barista’s Beans (of Hyde Park, Vermont).

This coffee is uniquely flavored with honey, peach and citrus, and most importantly, it comes from a fair-trade cooperative of Rwandan coffee growers (COOPAC, founded in 2001). Their website explains how these premium beans got from the war-torn country to my local market:

Rwanda has some of the best coffee growing conditions in the world. The COOPAC coffee cooperative is located on the steep slopes of northern Rwanda’s volcanic mountains, where the rich soil, high altitudes and abundant rainfall give the bourbon coffee trees dotting the slopes above Lake Kivu the best environment to yield the best Arabica beans. COOPAC has been Fair Trade certified and currently COOPAC specialty coffee is distributed in Rwanda, the USA and France.

Coffee was long the Rwanda’s main export, with 77 out of 146 districts producing coffee beans. But tea now generates more income. Coffee reduction has halved since the genocide of 1994, with only 14,000 tons valued at $15 million exported in 2003 compared to nearly 29,000 tons worth $38 million in 1993.

However, COOPAC membership has doubled every year, starting off with 110 farmers in 2001 to over 2,200 members today.

Barista’s Beans is a husband-and-wife team—the husband being a former web developer and the wife being a Columbian food aficionado. In addition to their quality coffee, I’ve always appreciated their packaging (a ziploc for better sealing, full 16oz bags instead of 12oz “pounds,” and a sleek look to boot). I was pleased to find their coffee back on the shelves after it had been absent for seemingly months. Apparently they suffered a house fire, but thankfully they are back in business. I just hope the couple’s mobile espresso van is still operational.

Even if you don’t live in Vermont, you can still buy their coffee online—and even get a coffee “subscription.”

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