Three award-winning coffees from Rwanda showcase diverse flavors

by Michelle Flandreau | April 12, 2016
HOME Farm to Cup Three award-winning coffees from Rwanda showcase diverse flavors

Just like wine, a coffee’s flavor depends a lot on where it's grown. Even within a single country, you can find a variety of distinct tastes.

Take these three Starbucks Reserve® coffees from Rwanda. Rwanda Mahembe tastes like eating candy, according to Starbucks Reserve coffee buyer Ann Traumann. Rwanda Maraba has lemon citrus characteristics. Floral and caramel notes stand out when drinking Rwanda Muyange.

Despite their unique, complex tastes, the small-lot coffees all came from a landlocked central African country about the size of Maryland.


In addition to geography, the trio shares another common bond. They were each winners at the 2015 Rwanda Cup of Excellence. The Alliance for Coffee Excellence holds these coffee competitions each year in some of the world’s top coffee-producing countries.

"The aim of this competition is to find the best coffees from the country hosting the competition. Every coffee farmer can submit a sample. The winning coffees are chosen by a select group of national and international coffee cuppers," said Traumann, who was on the international jury panel at the Rwanda Cup of Excellence last summer.

Starbucks Reserve buyer Ann Traumann cupped and scored coffee during the 2015 Rwanda Cup of Excellence. (Photo Courtesy: Ann Traumann)
Starbucks Reserve buyer Ann Traumann cupped and scored coffee during the 2015 Rwanda Cup of Excellence. (Photo Courtesy: Ann Traumann)

The judges scored the coffees based on their complexity and flavor, according to Traumann. The winning coffees that received 85 points or more were awarded Cup of Excellence and sold through an auction.

Out of 24 winning lots, Rwanda Mahembe placed second in the 2015 competition. Rwanda Maraba came in fourth place and Rwanda Muyange claimed the ninth spot.


The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle recently offered the three coffees as a Rwanda Cup of Excellence flight, brewed or scooped.

"All deserved to be highlighted at the Roastery because it’s a special and unique place as their cup profiles," Traumann said.


This is the second time Starbucks purchased coffee through a Cup of Excellence competition. It’s one of the many ways Traumann sources Starbucks Reserve coffees from around the world.

"Rwanda [Cup of Excellence] was another good and powerful experience," Traumann said. "It was also my first time in East Africa, and I won’t forget this trip, this experience."


Coffee Notes
Rwanda Maraba:
Lemon citrus notes with a toffee sweetness

Rwanda Mahembe:
Vibrant flavors of orange, peach, honey and chocolate

Rwanda Muyange:
Floral and caramel notes with a touch of plum

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