By: Sheila Murray
I’m always on the lookout for coffee roasters that are making a positive impact on the world, while roasting high quality coffee. Rwanda Bean is one of those companies, as they contribute an impressive 50% of their coffee profits to the farmers that grow their coffee! On their homepage, you can see the tangible results of these contributions. I was eager to partner with Rwanda Bean and to have the opportunity to share our experience trying five of their roasts!
With such a variety of coffee to try, I spread the roast reviews over a few days and enlisted the help of my husband and coffee tasting assistant, James, as well as a friend, Mariah. Sharing coffee communally is my absolute favorite way to enjoy coffee, and this time was no exception.
I reached into the box and pulled out a bag at random, their Ikizere Medium Roast, and was taken aback by how beautiful the bag itself was. As I came to find out, all their bags had shiny gold letters that stood out elegantly against the stark black bag, and each with one additional accent color. I could already feel the love and care that was poured into the coffee!
I handed the bag to James, who opened it and smelled the beans. His first impression was of spice, chocolate, and toasted nuts. I asked him which spice in particular he sensed and he said, “nutmeg!”
Next, I smelled the beans and the aroma warmed my heart instantly. It had a dark and round smell, with notes of chocolate and cinnamon. I took a few more moments to inhale the aroma and consider what else might be present. I sensed there could even be notes of stone fruit.
We decided to brew this coffee using our Pipamoka, as we were curious how the pressure brewer would bring out the dark and nutty notes of this coffee.
I divided up the freshly brewed coffee into two mugs, which we clinked before each taking a sip. We each took a few moments to sip slowly before sharing our experience.
James remarked that it was smooth and that the taste was consistent with the smell! He noted a certain woody flavor as well as being chocolatey, spicy, and full-bodied. He said it was the ideal coffee for that morning in particular, as we had just experienced a surprising snowstorm!
“Ah,” I said, “I can definitely sense nutmeg as well as dark chocolate.” For me it was perfectly balanced while being dark and satisfying. I sensed toasted hazelnuts layered within as well - not the fake hazelnut flavor you can find in syrups but something much more pure and delicious!
I agreed it was the ideal brew for the morning, though we had selected it at random.
Ikizere means hope and represents the hope of the coffee plants to thrive in their extreme alpine zones, as well as hope for the future of the nation. The company describes this coffee as, “bold, but balanced, with a pleasing tang tamed by chocolate undertones.” This is the ideal coffee to warm up on a cool morning.
Next up - the blonde roast!
I opened the bag, gently shook the beans around, and inhaled the aroma.
“Wow,” I exclaimed, “it’s so sweet-smelling and I’m also getting honey and caramel!”
James smelled the beans next and noted how light the beans smelled as well as buttery. He said it was almost like smelling sweet popcorn. I wouldn’t have thought of that myself but, upon smelling the beans a second time, it was quite buttery. James also sensed a hint of spice at the end.
For me it was just so sweet, in a way I don’t typically experience from the first impression. All that said, we were super curious to see what it would be like! We decided to use a pour over method to brew the blonde roast and pulled out the Cuppamoka.
James sipped his coffee first and said it was bolder than he expected, in a really nice way, and that it had notes of sugar and fruit.
I sipped from my mug and agreed that it had a certain sugary taste all the way through. The mouthfeel was quite buttery and round, and the brightness added to the complexity. I could see it having notes of citrus or green apple too!
James agreed on the citrus and commented that there were many layers to this coffee, which revealed themselves the more you sipped. It made it hard to not drink our whole coffee in a matter of minutes!
Ikerekezo means vision, and is a nod to the vision of contributing 50% of profits to Rwandan farmers to help build a brighter future together. As for the tasting notes, they describe it as, “Citrus, Fruity, Bright, Sweet.” This one is a summer staple!
I enlisted the help of my friend, Mariah, for this roast. We went to a yoga class together and decided to make coffee afterwards but since it was the middle of the day we opted for decaf! I couldn’t even remember the last time I drank decaf coffee, so it was a fun way to switch up my routine.
Mariah opened the bag and poured a handful of beans into a small glass bowl. We noticed that the beans were dark, signaling that the taste would likely be bold and dark too.
I smelled the beans and was surprised by the potency! The smell was warming and sweet and upheld a certain darkness that its appearance hinted at. Mariah agreed and said it was reminiscent of tobacco or punchy fruit.
We debated between using this roast for coffee or espresso and settled on espresso simply because we were craving it! This roast can definitely be used for both. I took out the Nanopresso and made us each our own espresso, which brewed beautifully.
I admired the crema atop my espresso and then took a slow sip. It was delightfully full-bodied and round, with tasting notes of caramel, wood, and chocolate. I truly didn’t know what to expect with the decaf espresso, but I was pleasantly surprised!
Mariah said that it was like an 80% cacao dark chocolate bar and that it still carried a bit of the fruity notes she had smelled, as well as brown sugar. We agreed that it would be the ideal decaf coffee for a dark roast drinker who was looking to decrease their daily caffeine intake as well as anyone looking for a unique and dark brew!
Amahoro means peace and signifies Rwanda Bean’s commitment to building a brighter, more peaceful future. They say that this coffee has notes of fruit and molasses!
James opened the bag and inhaled from the bag’s opening. He said he definitely noted chocolate as well as toasted nuts.
I smelled the beans and the aroma was reminiscent of the coffee that my dad always picks up from a stand at the farmers market. My dad has always appreciated quality dark roast coffees, as well as supporting local businesses, and I instantly knew he’d be a fan of this coffee and company! It smelled dark, nutty, chocolatey, and spicy.
James added that there could be a subtle note of citrus in there too. We agreed that high quality, single origin coffees like this one always have so many layers to peel back and explore while smelling and tasting. When you down a cup of coffee without even thinking about it, you miss out on a beautiful experience!
I took the Cuppamoka out of the cabinet, ground the beans, prepared the brewing station, and brewed one fresh cup of coffee that I divided into two mugs.
I took a sip first and was pleasantly surprised by the smooth and chocolatey mouthfeel. It seemed to have just the right amount of acidity to create a balanced and drinkable cup. It was perfect for the snowy morning we were having. Spring in Colorado means 70s and sunny one day and snowy and 30s the next! It’s nice to have a variety of coffees to rotate in for every mood and season.
James said that he was still getting notes of toasted nuts and for him there wasn’t any acidity at all. He said that there was a hint of citrus within the multitude of delicious layers. We talked about whether it was actual citrus or if that could be a lemony impression that could be better described by “notes of nutmeg.” We had learned that nutmeg can carry notes of lemon and it’s really changed the way I experience nutmeg in other dishes!
Ishema means proud and pays respect to the heart and hard work behind each cup of coffee. Rwanda Bean says that this coffee has smoky and dark chocolate notes and that “it opens with an earthy aroma that blossoms into notes of nutmeg then fades into a smooth, satisfying finish.” Delightful!
I smelled the espresso beans and exclaimed, “Oh this smells so delicious!” I was especially taken by the notes of caramel or toffee as well as a hint of fresh fruit.
James smelled the beans next and said, “Mmm yes, I definitely smell cherry or strawberry.” I asked him if he smelled anything else other than the fruit and he replied that there might be some cinnamon or spices!
We measured the beans using our Exagram and then poured them into our Exagrind. Along the way we admired how beautiful and bright the small espresso beans were. We each wanted our own espresso because it seemed too good to share, so I made us two espressos using the Picopresso.
Similar to the beans, the resulting espresso was also bright and beautiful. If you’re a coffee lover like me, you know how the right espresso or cup of coffee really can be a marvelous thing!
James sipped his espresso and remarked that it was creamy and full-bodied while simultaneously holding light and fruity notes. He was impressed by the dynamic experience from start to finish, with the variety of notes that expressed themselves. I hadn’t yet sipped my espresso and was simply entertained by his experience so far!
When I did take a sip I was instantly in love with the bright fruity notes. The more I sipped the more I also tasted chocolate, which rounded out the mouthfeel. James and I agreed there was a certain cinnamon spice taste as well as sweet honey.
Virunga means volcanoes! I love how they describe this espresso as a “carnival of flavors” thanks to the blend of three different roast levels. You’ll experience a spectrum of flavors - from bright citrus to cool chocolate. Best enjoyed on a day you want to feel creative and inspired!