Over the summer I embarked upon a girls’ own adventure, driving around Africa, with a dear friend of mine from high school. I did not invite my beloved partner to join us. In consolation, I thought it would be fun to bring him back a coffee journey. I tried to buy single origin coffee wherever we went. I don’t drink coffee, and when we started dating I announced that the only coffee I would allow through the front door was good, fair trade coffee. While the coffee’s I bought on my journey weren’t certified fair trade, I am still confident in my overall aim to ensure producers receive a fair price for their goods. I thought it would be a very good idea to support African enterprises at the local level, as directly as possible.
We began our adventure in Uganda. In Kampala, the capital, we found a great little cafe in Lugogo (next to Shoprite for those of you in the know) called Good African. It was here we often found ourselves satiating our requirement for a hot beverage, and a reminder of one of home’s luxuries. Good African Coffee is a product of the ‘trade not aid’ movement and invests 50 per cent of its profit into growers and their communities. As a reminder of Kampala, I bought a bag of Espresso Roast that has a pungent aroma and Italian flavour with a very rich crema. It’s an excellent morning coffee. My partner tells me it was like being slapped in the face by a chimpanzee! 🙂
From Kampala we headed west, and spent some time in the Rwenzori Mountains and Kasese District where much of Good African Coffee is grown. The Rwenzori Mountains mark the western edge of the Great Rift Valley; the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the eastern edge of the Virunga National Park, Africa’s first national park. The Rwenzori blend has a mild and sweet aroma and taste that goes down well all day long. From there we headed south to Kabale, where we discovered a fabulous little bar/cafe/restaurant called Edirisa. We refuelled on our favourite beverages and admired the spectacular local artwork.
We crossed the border into Rwanda and drove via Kigali through the Virunga volcanic region. Rwandan company, Bourbon Coffee, make Virunga Mountain Region. The rich volcanic soils, high altitude and rainfall allow the coffee berries to ripen slowly. It has a sweet, cherry flavour. This coffee was a great reminder of our adventure in Virunga National Park to meet the Mountain Gorillas, and climb an active volcano.
We spent a very enjoyable week in Gisenyi, a Rwandan border town on Lake Kivu. It is a beautiful spot. While Goma, Gisenyi’s twin city on the Congolese side of the border is very apparently ravaged by war, Gisenyi is laid back and easy going. Bourbon’s Lake Kivu is a lively and refreshing coffee with a hint of chocolate.
From there, we crossed the border into Goma. I have been to Democratic Republic of Congo before, and despite it all, fell in love with the place. While I was off visiting a demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration project, my ever-social travelling companion befriended a local man who bought her a bag of the most intense smelling freshly ground coffee. In very Congoalise style, it came in a recycled plastic grocery bag. There is no pretty label to show you for that one. But heavens, it had the most beautiful rich aroma that filled our car. It made a very strong, rich, earthy brew. My partner said with five cups of the Goma grind he felt like the jungle drums were playing on his heart.
We crossed back into Rwanda, to follow the better roads, and headed south through Butare, the intellectual capital of Rwanda. We spent the night and found a wonderful little cafe selling ice-cream and cakes and local coffee. Inzozi Nziza, (Sweet Dreams) aims to support the local community and provide a social gathering place. They source their produce locally and roast and grind their coffee onsite. The coffee tasted very European and made a full bodied, well roasted brew with rich flavour and a good hit of caffeine. They also make great chocolate chip cookies.
Heading west again, on our way back to the Congo, we drove through the incredible Nyungwe rainforest where we saw chimpanzees and monkeys in the wild. Bourbon’s coffee from the Kizi Rift Valley Region comes from plantations north of Nyungwe, all the way back up to the Virunga volcanoes. It has a refreshingly light and mellow flavour. Its very nice as a casual afternoon drink, but wouldn’t wake you up in the morning. I have saved the bottle of Nyungwe honey I picked up along the way, it’s so dark, it almost looks like molasses. Once we handed back our car, we filled in the last days of our journey in Kigali where I saw a dish on the menu of rabbit with coffee sauce. The idea behind teh dish appealed to me and one day, I hope to come up with a dish that will highlight the major products of the region. It may well include coffee, but I really want it to include that honey.