Once in awhile, an idea comes over me and I can't get it out of my head. On my last full day in Rwanda – the day before my flight out – I tasted a coffee that was floral, sweet, a little rough around the edges, but overall very good. That is not a particularly surprising thing, as I was it Rwanda and cupping here usually is impressive. However, this particular coffee wasn't from Rwanda, it was from Congo. I tasted this coffee in the lab of Coopac – my last stop in Rwanda – and Emanuel, the owner of Coopac, saw the look in my eye immediately. As we sat on Lake Kivu having lunch, looking across the lake to Congo, I told Emanuel I wanted to wake up early in the morning and go to see the coffee from the cooperative in Congo that he was working with.

What ensued is to be expected.

I didn't have a Visa, which is required to get in, and normally takes days or weeks to get. So, some strings needed to be pulled. I received the Visa about 2 hours later than we were hoping, and it took about 45 minutes to make it through the border customs. By the time I stepped onto Congo soil it was about 11 in the morning (3 hours past when we were hoping to get in), and I was a little nervous, as my flight out of Kigali was at 4 p.m.

After driving through the busy, congested town of Goma and heading into the mountains around Lake Kivu, we arrived at the cooperative. Sopacdi is a cooperative just outside the town of Minova, and, while rustic in general, I was quite impressed with the setup. Right across the lake are a half-dozen or more Cup of Excellence winning washing stations in Rwanda. Why would this coffee be any different?

For the most part it is not different. Immediately upon entering Congo, you can certainly notice the roads are not as well developed or maintained as in Rwanda, and the area around Goma is more impoverished than the neighboring Rwandan town of Gisenyi. This is of course due to years of instability, but, while this was my first time in Congo and I have no real reference, it does feels like a tide is starting to turn – at least in the coffee industry. More coffee people by the day are getting interested in the coffee, and recent stability, while always teetering on the edge, is helping to spur that interest.

After a little more than an hour looking around one farm – seeing processing and drying – I became convinced that Congo is the next Rwanda/Burundi story in terms of specialty coffee. The processing was excellent, and all that was needed to create an amazing coffee was some quality separation. I will wager money that Counter Culture will have a stunning Congolese coffee within a few years, maybe even from this cooperative.

By the time I left the Cooperative, all hope of making my flight in Kigali at 4 was gone, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Keep scrolling through the set for more notes, and look forward to the future, as more trips to Congo are a certainty.

12 photos · 195 views