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A number of the most important coffee producing nations of Africa are found in a geographical zone that is commonly referred to as the "Great Lakes Region’. As its name suggests, this region encompasses coffee growing countries that are located in close proximity to the great lakes of East Africa, including Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Kivu. Rwanda and Burundi are the primary countries from this part of Africa that Passenger has purchased coffees from to date, so it's with great excitement that we're adding this delightful washed coffee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Reserve Lot menu.

Mapendo, which translates to “Love” in the native Swahili language, is the first coffee we’ve bought from DR Congo and is our first time working with supplier Mighty Peace Coffee. Born out of the Congolese peace movement, Mighty Peace Coffee was founded in 2018 with the goal of using specialty coffee production in DR Congo to make a positive impact on the lives of those affected by years of conflict in the region. Around 4200 farmers, about 40% of which are women, contribute to the 16 different separations that were blended to create this Mapendo community offering. The specific lot selected by Passenger’s green buying team was titled “Mapendo 1800”, denoting that the lot separation consisted of cherries grown at 1800 masl or above. With growing elevations for Mapendo ranging from 1450 - 1800 masl, the lively acidity and deep sweetness of this separation is almost certainly traceable to higher elevation cherry selection (slower cherry maturation at higher altitudes tends to yield added complexity and sweetness to the cup). The coffees of Mapendo are processed at three different washing stations in the Kalehe territory of South Kivu province, where a fourth washing station and quality control lab are currently under construction as well.

While Arabica species coffees like this one from the Congo have been more prevalent in recent years, Congo’s history with coffee primarily began with colonial investment in the economic potential of Robusta production, in the early 1900’s. In Congo specifically, Belgian Botanist Emille Laurent founded the Eala Botanical Garden in 1906, which became a site for coffee research and breeding of the Coffea canephora species (commonly known as Robusta). After gaining independence in 1960, Congo’s coffee sector would grow to become one of the world’s leading Robusta exporters by the 1980’s and 90’s. Since that boom, ongoing unrest, civil war, and the extractive economic interests of western global actors in the Congo has limited the capability of the agricultural economy in general, with smallholder farmers being particularly impacted. Despite such setbacks, investments were made in 2012 by the Congolese government to invigorate the coffee sector, with an eye to both Arabica and Robusta production. As the coffee world grapples with how to adjust to a changing climate, conversations around how we value Robusta in a specialty context have been on the rise. In addition, Robusta has proven to be a critical tool in building more rugged coffee varieties suitable to a wider spectrum of climate realities. As recently as 2021, studies have suggested that DR Congo could be home to a wealth of untapped Robusta genetics, such that Congo could very well emerge in the conversation regarding Robusta’s potentially vital role in the future of coffee.