Food & Drink

Rwanda Coffee Connoisseurs

“I don’t know what it is about coffee but no matter the kind of day am having, regardless of how slow, busy, chaotic or calm, coffee makes me feel like I’ve used a time machine to steal me some time away from the world and back to a better space-time.”  

When talking about the rise of the modern-day coffee culture in Rwanda and how it has manifested itself over time, one cannot fail to say that Rwanda’s roasted coffee beans are among frequent imports overseas, but given a closer look at the domestic coffee consumption by Rwandan citizens, a different picture comes up.

A farmer sorts his harvested beans

I was first introduced to coffee at a young age, reading from John Grisham’s books where he frequently and casually said,

“My best lead characters are somewhere sipping on a cup of coffee”.

The word coffee immediately piqued my interest, and with the lack of internet knowledge and a few coffee cup images, I thought to myself – for rather a long time – that ‘coffee’ was another word to mean black tea.

In short, that’s how I’d describe the evolution of modern Rwandan coffee culture: from a discovery phase differentiating black tea from coffee, differentiating hot chocolate from coffee; to its current exploratory phase of learning new flavor names of a strong cup of espresso, to savoring the popular but less caffeinated café latte.

With high-end coffee shops  opening in Kigali – for example, the famous Kigali Heights and KBC which are flattered with trending cute spots like Java House, Magda Café, Slice & Cake, Delizia Italiana, etc – young people are now rushing in these swanky and Instagram-able spots to order a to-go coffee cup, which increases the conversations around coffee and identifying coffee drinkers.

With all that said and done, does it mean the average Rwandan person has a clear understanding of what type of coffee they are consuming, and what it means to actually consume coffee?

The other day I walked into the Women’s Bakery down in Remera, as they have a beautiful space, (and a great story about their establishment and impeccable support to women’s employment I will live to tell another day), they disappointed me when I found out that the women didn’t offer any flavored processed coffee. Which is an indication that coffee isn’t a preferred drinking option.

  • Café Mocha
  • Expresso
  • Café Americano
  • Café Latté|
    courtesy Neo Café 

I’ve come to encounter such scenarios often enough, as a coffee connoisseur and a coffee-shop lover: many baristas still stammer in their words while trying to explain the flavors and aromas in different  coffee types. Which comes as such a disappointment because these are the people whose life earnings relies on the coffee cups they serve.

Historically, African countries in general are well-known for coffee production and growing, rather than coffee consumption.

However we are now able to see many coffee shops trying to emulate the western-style chain of coffee shops, like Café Neo, originally from Nigeria and that now has several branches in commercial buildings in Kigali. Using the Rwandan Arabica coffee beans, local coffee shops are attempting to create a vibrant and modern African coffee consumption.

Coffee shop businesses are not only a quiet space for working, a cup of coffee, low jazz music playing in the background, free Wi-Fi… it goes deeper into how the space makes you feel, how comfortable and serene the setting of the café is, providing a collaborative space for entrepreneurs to be creative, coffee matching meals and pastries and most importantly, the quality of the coffee beans used… not the quantity, but the QUALITY.

(It’s rare to find TRUE coffee lovers worried about the quantity rather than the quality of the coffee used.)

Coffee is popular with its unique scent and aroma, from a black, plain coffee cup to a flavored Macchiato coffee cup, you will have yourself an energetic day.

Hot water, powdered coffee beans, add milk, add sugar, add a flavor or cream. There, you have yourself a fine cup of coffee, ENJOY!

Side notes:

Other locally processed coffee brands in Rwanda include Maraba Coffee, Arabica Kivu Bourbon, Gicumbi Coffee, Rugari Coffee among many others.

Popular independent coffee shops you should know about in Rwanda:

Kigali Sol Café, Inzora Rooftop Café, Shokola Café, Terra Café, BWOK Café and Bistro, Baso Patisserie, Question Café and many others.

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