Thursday, 15 December 2016

Rwandan Natural Has Landed!

Sam at Nyarusiza
We have such amazing memories of our origin trip to Rwanda last year and one of the highlights was hanging out with the awesome Sam Muhirwa of Buf cafe. When we visited his washing station at Nyarusiza we were super excited to see that he was starting to experiment with natural processing. 
Rwanda is not well known for its natural processed coffees. After the horrors of 1994 genocide, aid programmes invested heavily in the region with the establishment of washing stations and a focus on the production of fully washed coffee. As a result there was a shift in the country to quality rather than quantity and now nearly half of Rwanda's coffee production can be classified as speciality. 
We love the fact that Buf are now starting to produce high quality natural processed coffee and the result is testament to the great care and diligence they take in their work.
Our first bag of Rwandan Buf naturals has now landed and we can't get enough of the boozy, fruity notes we get in the cup. Needless to say it makes an amazing espresso and we have just sent a box down to the good people at Urban Angel on Edinburgh's Hanover Street. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Rannoch to Corrour Winter Adventure

We had an epic mini adventure last week when a few of us walked from Rannoch Station out to Corrour and back with an overnight at the fantastic Loch Ossian Youth Hostel. The weather on the second day was spectacular with Scotland at its awesome best. It was the first snow-bow experience for all of us - or is it a snow halo? Very cool.... We made lots of coffee using our snow peak dripper - sweet Colombian La Esperanza kept us warm in the freeze. Big thanks to Tim Willis for these amazing pictures.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Ethiopian Guji Gigesa - Our Solstice Special

With midsummer upon us there must be few places in the world as lovely as the Scottish Highlands right now. We are very excited to bring you the perfect coffee for this wonderful time of year - the bright and floral beauty that is Ethiopia Guji Gigesa.

It has been an amazing year for Ethiopian coffee and this offering from the Guji region is particularly spectacular. Like Yirgacheffe, coffees from Guji were once categorised together with those from Sidamo. However Guji coffees are quite distinct from either Yirgacheffe or Sidamo.

Guji is one of the zones of the Oromia region of Ethiopia and is located in the southern part of Sidamo. The people of Guji, known as the Oromo, have a long tradition of coffee cultivation where the hills and landscape allow for particular cultivars to develop. 

If you'd like to try our Guji Gigesa (and trust us you won't regret it) please check the online shop or pick up a bag from our roastery. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016


Sipi Falls harvest (photo: Kawacom)
We are unbelievably excited about our new Ugandan coffee from the Sipi Falls Organic Coffee Project. The project, initiated in 1999 high on the slopes of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda, promotes the cultivation of arabica coffee, trains farmers in agricultural techniques and best practices and also builds top-notch washing stations. It hopes to put Uganda firmly on the map as a producer of speciality coffee and judging by just how good this tastes in the cup we'd say: mission accomplished. In 2002 the project received its first organic certification and today over 10,000 smallholder farmers are involved, many of whom not only receive higher prices for their coffee but also benefit from other social, environmental and micro-finance programmes.

This map shows the main growing regions of arabica in Uganda. Sipi Falls lies in the Bugisu (green circled) region on the Kenyan border.

The famous Sipi Falls 
The Sipi plateau

And then, because good things tend to come in twos and threes we are thrilled to welcome Dave as our new roaster here at Glen Lyon. In one of those lovely twists of fate, Dave has spent the last four years living in Uganda, at Sipi of all places. 

Dave with his dog Yoda photographed at Sipi, Uganda

Friday, 16 October 2015

Hiking Glen Lyon to Bridge of Orchy

Cracking walk earlier this week from Glenlyon through to Bridge of Orchy. We walked into Glen Cailliche and then took a longish diversion up onto the ridge of Beinn Achaladair where we were rewarded by the most amazing panoramic across Rannoch Moor. Spectacular autumn walking with mixed light and long shadow. We made it into Bridge of Orchy from Coire a Ghabhalach with the last of the light. Brewed up a lovely Kenyan coffee from the Ramukia co-op on the hill!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


I’m not sure exactly when I became addicted to the thrill of taking motorbike taxis in Rwanda but somewhere in downtown Kigali- bombing downhill, scratched up visor blurring my vision, driver crazily dodging trucks, cars and people  - I realised that this was a seriously fun way to get around town.

I had come to Rwanda at the invitation of Mercanta, our speciality green coffee importers, to meet the producers behind the spectacular coffee that we source from this origin. At Glen Lyon we have been huge fans of Rwandan coffee from the outset and a bag of Rwanda Musasa was on the first pallet of greens we received.  It’s one of the origins I get most excited about with the amazing florals and orange notes that we find in the cup and I sometimes think that if I was forced to only drink the coffee from just one origin for the rest of my life then I would chose Rwanda.

Rwanda is an astonishing country. Less than half the size of Scotland but with twice the population it remains one of the poorest nations in the world, tiny and landlocked in a geopolitical region not best known for its stability. Yet Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in parliament in the world. It’s leading Africa’s digital revolution with an initiative creating free wifi on buses, in hospitals, commercial buildings and restaurants. I never saw any litter during my visit, literally, anywhere. This is largely due to the fact that in 2007, enlightened Rwanda became the first country in the world to legislate an outright ban on plastic bags.

But what amazed me most about this amazing nation is just how happy, welcoming and friendly the people are. The horrors of the Rwandan genocide happened little more 20 years ago leaving the country decimated with “a society whose soul had been shredded… where hardly a person could be found who was not related to someone who had either killed or been killed”* How a country can recover from such horrific events is beyond me. But Rwanda seems to be doing something right.

In the years that followed the genocide, International aid programmes invested heavily in the region. Among them were programmes investing in improving the quality of Rwandan coffee with the construction of the country’s first washing stations. The initiative was a huge success not least thanks to Rwanda's natural resources: Fantastic rainfall, fertile soil and plenty of altitude – it’s no coincidence the tourist board’s strapline boasts Rwanda “a land of a thousand hills”.

Coffee is now one of Rwanda’s top exports bringing in US$60 million to the country last year. Back in 2002 only about 1% of total coffee production could be classified as speciality and there were just two washing stations in the whole country. Today there are some 230 coffee washing stations with 45% of Rwanda’s coffee production now graded as speciality.

I had wanted to visit Rwanda for a long time so you can imagine my excitement to be heading north to the Musasa Co-operative in the excellent company of Mercanta’s Raphael Prime, Jon Cowell of Campbell & Syme Roasters, the lovely Angelique Karekezi of RWASHOSCCO (Mercanta’s export partners) and Roger Niyonshuti, a man simply bursting with life and laughter and generosity of spirit. Roger was just 9 years old when his parents were killed during the genocide. Orphaned and alone he had to fend for himself working his way through school first running a bicycle taxi to now owning his own Toyota Landcruiser driving various officials, NGOs and coffee people like ourselves around the country.  

As we headed north out of Kigali, the city gave way to a countryside of red earth, eucalyptus and banana groves. We drove past roadside restaurants serving up skewers of goat brochette and enormous baked potatoes, women carrying impossible looking loads on their heads, horned cattle and smiling children greeting us with cries of mzungu.  In populous Rwanda there are people everywhere and it often seems that every inch of the land is cultivated. As well as tea, coffee, and tropical fruit, we saw fields of cassava, sweet potato, sugar cane and sorghum.

As with all roads in Rwanda, the tarmac eventually runs out and we soon found ourselves bouncing along red earth tracks. On a hillside high above Musasa washing station we met Andrew Hakizimana, a 50 year old farmer and a founding member of the Musasa co-operative, nattily dressed in a pinstripe suit and wellington boots. As well as his 3,600 coffee trees Andrew also grows bananas, passion fruit, cassava, sweet potato, tomatoes and avocado. His pride and joy, however, is the cow he received as a gift from Musasa. He now sells the milk for extra income and uses the manure to help fertilize his coffee trees increasing production and quality.

Later in the week we headed south towards Butare joined by Sam Muhirwa of Buf Café. Sam’s a bit of a legend in the world of Rwandan speciality coffee and it’s not difficult to see why. Apart from being a genuinely lovely person he produces consistently amazing coffees from his washing stations at Nyarusiza and Remera. He’s not afraid to try out new techniques either and has begun experimenting with naturals and different drying techniques.  At Remera or “Lemela” as Sam often called it (Rwandans have a endearing trait of randomly interchanging their Rs and Ls)  the last of the harvest was still coming in and it was great to see the washing station in action. We have loved the lots that we have had from Buf Cafe in the past and this year’s crop look set to be an epic one. 

After days of full-on coffee immersion it was a little ironic to stay the night in the middle of a tea plantation at the divine Nyungwe Forest Lodge where we shared the dining room with none other than the President’s wife. The only thing that could have disturbed my sleep in Rwanda’s most comfortable bed was the 5.5 magnitude earthquake that shook the whole country awake at 3am.

Dragging ourselves from the luxury of Nyungwe we headed north and west to Lake Kivu where coffee plantations, such as Kamajumba, grow right down to the lake shore and could easily claim the title of having the most beautiful setting for a coffee farm... ever. Having cupped these Kivu Belt coffees earlier in the week at the RWASHOSCCO offices back in Kigali I can vouch for their deliciousness.

Despite producing arguably the world’s best coffee it seems a shame that Rwandans themselves drink so little of it. This could be about to change as a number of specialty coffee shops such as Neo and Bourbon are starting to establish themselves in Kigali where you can now order a V60 pourover alongside your beef samosa.  
For now though Rwandans still prefer to drink tea, beer and infinite varieties of Fanta. Oh and Waragi, of course. Aka “War Gin”, Waragi is a clear liquor, distilled in Uganda and guaranteed to get you very merry indeed. Just opening a bottle of this stuff and you know the night won’t end until you’re on the dancefloor at 4am in a joint called something like Rosty Plus before heading home on the back of a moto-taxi revving it up through Kigali as the sun comes up.  As I said, Rwandan motorbikes, just like the coffee, have become a bit of an obsession.

*From Philip Gourevitch’s compelling account of the Rwandan Genocide “We wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We will be Killed with our Families

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Midsummer Madness

Green coffee (still in parchment) drying on patios, Guatemala
Midsummer is such a great time of year in the world of coffee as the Central American harvests are now shipping thick and fast and we are super excited to be taking stock of some truly fabulous coffees this season. 
First up the eternally lovely Finca Santa Isabel grown at 1400-1600 metres above sea level in the cool, rainy hills of Cobán, Guatemala. This family run farm has been in the Valdes family on and off since 1875 and planted with coffee back in 1965. The subsequent years spent perfecting cultivation and drying techniques have seen this 300 acre farm produce a consistently excellent coffee and even become finalists in Guatemala’s Cup of Excellence twice.
Santa Isabel Farm manager Alphonso
This year’s offering from Santa Isabel is particularly awesome. We first cupped this coffee at the SCAA event in Seattle back in April and it jumped out at us on a table with a lot of good coffees on. In fact it was so darn tasty that we knew we just had to have this in the roastery and promptly reserved 30 bags on the spot. Earlier this month, Fiona met Luis and Rodrigo Valdes from Santa Isabel at the London offices of Mercanta where they spoke in greater detail about production on the farm.
Santa Isabel is tasting at its absolute best right now with a cup that’s bursting with caramel
Fiona with Rodrigo and Luis Valdes
and a riot of floral notes so if you haven’t yet tried this coffee yet then we urge you with all our caffeinated souls to do so.

It seems an age since we last had any Costa Rican beans in at the roastery and so we’re delighted to be about to take delivery of a beautiful coffee grown by the smallholder farmer members of Coopetarrazú from the community of El Rodeo lying in the San Marcos de Tarrazú mountains of Costa Rica.  We found loads of hazelnut and chocolate notes in the cup and are really looking forward to roasting this coffee later this week.
Finally the epic Colombian coffee that is Finca La Falda is back again this year and better than ever. It was a tough battle to secure this lot (involving some serious schmoozing and vague promises of a bottle or two of 12 year old Aberfeldy malt ) but we are happy to report that we have secured two bags of the good stuff and, providing we don’t drink it all ourselves, should have this online by the end of the month.

Finca La Falda, Antioquia, Colombia

Summer has arrived in Glen Lyon in a hundred shades of green and long evenings of endless light.  Sure we can still see snow in the deep corries of the Ben Lawers massif and have yet to swim in the river but we celebrated Midsummer’s Eve in style in the glen with a fire pit, whisky, friends and a lot of dogs.  Here’s to a summer of adventure and great coffee.