“The smell is what I remember most,” says Charlie. “Burning eucalyptus. Rwanda is covered in eucalyptus, and in the dry season the leaves turn silver and then bright white so the hills look frosted. The trees are burned for cooking, so it tends to permeate the air. Eucalyptus is a home smell for me, so although it’s somewhat different from how it is in the Bay Area, I immediately recognized it when I arrived.
This coffee comes from the Bushoki Washing Station, which was called Rulindo Washing Station when Charlie first came across it in 2013. Back in Rwanda a few years later, he learned that Blue Bottle’s exporter had just signed up a new washing station in the Rulindo district. It turned out that this “new” station was actually the oldest station in the district—the one that floored him with its coffee a few years before.
Though the name had changed, to Charlie’s delight the coffee was just as remarkable as it ever was. “Rwanda coffees are some of my favorite because of how well they display contrasting characteristics,” he says. “You get ripe fruits and savory herbs, creaminess and brightness all at once. Bushoki embodies this very well.”
Charlie attributes this excellence to expertise (its current manager has been running the station for ten years), the time of year the coffee was roasted, and the terroir: Bushoki sits in a shallow valley on top of a generous amount of groundwater, which allows it to process coffees like a Kenyan station. “All the scrubbing and pulping with fresh, clean water is likely one reason for the great cleanliness we get when this coffee’s fresh,” says Charlie.
For those with the opportunity to travel to Rwanda, Charlie notes that they should be aware of two things. The first is that, despite its rich coffee culture, Rwanda will be “startlingly cosmopolitan.” The second? “The oil dripper on the table is a chili oil, called akabanga, and it should be used.”
For those who can’t yet visit complex and beautiful country in person, this resplendent coffee is delicious consolation.