In November, Coffee World Tour will visit Congo, a country with a history of oppression, violence, and government instability but as is always the case in places where adverse and unfortunate events occur, there’s more to the story. The Congolese have a rich history and part of it forever changed the world of coffee.
As far back as the 14th Century, The Kingdom of Kongo built an economy selling slaves and ivory. In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers helped the Congolese royals expand their slave trade. Europeans would eventually colonize the Congo and continue this tradition of exploitation. Its people regularly died of disease and maltreatment.
In 1898, during Belgian rule, a botanist named Emil Laurent discovered a new species of coffee in the Congo that grew at lower altitudes and seemed to be hardier than the arabica species. The coffee was sent back to Belgium to be studied and eventually planted in the Congo and marketed as robusta. It was being introduced to the world at the very same time when coffee was starting to be mass marketed and it would eventually become the staple commodity bean. If you’ve ever gone to a gas station and bought a giant cup of coffee for a dollar, you’ve probably tried robusta.
Coffee production continued in the country but the twentieth century was full of turmoil. Attempts at independence led to civil war and a multitude of attempted power grabs which punished the nation’s economy and farmers. In the twenty-first century though, Congo’s outlook started to look more positive. Coffee production increased significantly in 2002 after the end of the civil war. Despite some democratic lapses in this era, like cancelled elections, rebellious actions, civil unrest, and general mistrust of the government, the Democratic Republic of Congo experienced their first ever peaceful transfer of power in 2019.
The past twenty years, while certainly not free of instability, have in a way started to look hopeful for Congo. The Kivu area has emerged as a respectable producer of specialty coffee. The nation’s most imminent challenges appear to be infrastructural. This month, we’ve been able to bring you spectacular coffee that’s helping to meet those challenges with the assistance of a fantastic non-profit project called Virguna Coffee. Virguna teaches better farming practices, and plants and protects shade trees, which are often targeted by loggers. They have also built washing stations and dry beds for farmers to process their coffee, and created the cooperative groups which allow farmers to sell their product on an international market for a fair price. The cooperative has also paid for both Fair Trade and Organic certification
This month’s coffee showcases the fantastic work being done by farmers in Congo. You will find it incredibly smooth with notes of salted caramel, vanilla, and baking spices. It should be a perfect coffee to celebrate autumn,
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rich and luscious
caramel, vanilla, baking spices
1500 – 1800 meters
Lot Size: 1200kg, Cup Score: 87.6
Virunga Coffee Company
Relationship Established: 2020
Green: $11.02/kg, FOB: $5.73/kg
Transportation: $.50/kg, Production: $8.973/kg
Congo Average (Feb 2020): $1.50/kg
Fair Trade Price: $3.086/kg
If you want to be the first to experience this incredible coffee, and to try a new coffee from a different place around the world every month, be sure to subscribe to Coffee World Tour before November 1.