Above: Beautiful Lake Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo credit: Mighty Peace Coffee)
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Region: South Kivu
Producer: Twende Cooperative
Elevation: 1480-2000 meters above sea level
Certifications: Organic, Fair Trade
If you’ve been with us for a while, you’ll know that while we’ve rarely met a coffee we didn’t like, we have a particular affinity for coffees grown in Africa. East Africa, and Ethiopia in particular, is commonly regarded as the original birthplace of coffee, and perhaps there’s something about that ancient connection to coffee’s origins that makes African coffees so special. Perhaps more quantifiably, however, specialty grade coffees grown in Africa are widely praised for their complexity of flavor and depth of nuance. There’s also such a wide variety of flavor profiles to discover – from the iconic berry notes of natural processed Ethiopian coffees, to the bright tangy acidity of Kenya, the full body and deep fruit notes of Burundi, and the bittersweet chocolate and spice tones of Yemen. So, it may come as no surprise that we were quite excited about our first foray into coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Coffee provides new economic opportunities for women in the DRC (Photo credit: Mighty Peace Coffee)
Coffee Production in the DRC
Once a thriving industry, coffee production in the Democratic Republic of Congo (or DRC for short) was nationalized in the 1970s and grew to an annual production of 120,000 tonnes per year in the early 1990s. Post-colonial civil wars that have claimed up to six million lives, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition, understandably affected the earning potential for coffee farmers and thus greatly reduced the production of coffee in the DRC.
Near constant war eliminated producers' ability to export their coffees, and those that continued to work in coffee often their unprocessed beans to neighboring countries for processing and export. Not only was this less profitable, but also dangerous – many farmers in the Lake Kivu region resorted to transporting their beans to Rwanda via a two-day trip on a wooden canoe, and an untold number have drowned while attempting the crossing.
Recently, however, the Congolese-led international peace movement to end the mineral conflicts has led to a shift: local economies are slowly transitioning from conflict, returning to ethical and sustainable business practices. Several coffee cooperatives and agencies have formed to help reduce the risk for coffee farmers and to share the burden of processing and export-related expenses. Mighty Peace Coffee, who has brought our Twende Coopertaive lot into the states, is one such organization.
Mighty Peace is a women- and minority-owned social impact coffee company serving 15,000 independent coffee farmers in the DRC, and is directly involved in the country's peace movement. By providing support, education, and sustainable economic opportunities for DRC coffee farmers, Mighty Peace unites communities previously divided by violence and armed conflict.
Our Twende Cooperative offering is certified Fair Trade and Organic, but Mighty Peace is taking the certifications one step further, by creating what they call “Peace Trade.” Peace Trade is defined by three pillars of ethical practices:
- Highest labor standards and fair trade practices
- Environmental stability and organic certifications
- Partnerships with local, national, and international agencies and the United Nations
Supporting Peace Trade coffees helps stimulate local economies, raises the living standards of farmers, and helps end the cycle of poverty, conflict, and injustice. While the end result is a specialty grade coffee with a relatively high price tag, we think you’ll agree the cause is well worth the increase in costs.
New processing facilities offer conflict-free employment to Congolese men and women. (Photo credit: Mighty Peace Coffee)
Formed in 2011, Twende Cooperative is comprised of over 2,000 members, exclusively growing the Bourbon variety of coffea arabica at high elevations around the Lake Kivu region of the DRC. Twende is improving the quality of life in the region by creating jobs at newly built washing stations and employing over 150 men and women during the harvest and processing season.
In the cup, Twende Cooperative is spectacular! We find hints of classic tasting notes shared by nearby African countries of Burundi and Rwanda, but also a unique character of its own. There is an astonishing complexity to this coffee, with flavors ranging from notes of toasted malt to sweet orange juice. Soft aromas of vanilla are accented by the sweetness of white chocolate and a finish that reminds us of a great black tea. This coffee seems to unfold as it cools, offering new nuanced flavors each sip.
We’re so pleased to be able to play a small part in supporting positive change in the lives of hardworking Congolese farmers by offering this unique coffee to our friends in Sedona and around the country. This being our first-time sourcing from the DRC, we were only able to secure a limited quantity of Twende Cooperative this year, but having now experienced the delightful specialty coffee from this origin, we know it certainly won’t be the last.
We can’t thank you enough for your support of our roastery, which has not only provided us an opportunity to pursue our passion, but together we are also truly making a difference in the lives of those whose efforts make the simple pleasure of coffee possible. If you enjoy a light-medium roast, complex character, and positive social impact, you may want to treat yourself to a bag of this unique coffee!