Bourbon is the only variety that made it to the Cup of Excellence the last time the auction was conducted in Rwanda. This points to Bourbon’s propensity for taking in the best qualities of terroir, which then translate into desirable qualities in the cup.
Amid a dominantly washed process-oriented industry, Emmanuel sought to be one of the pioneers of natural and honey processing in Rwanda after visiting Costa Rica, where he witnessed how these methods could multiply the trajectories of flavor creation.
He applied this learning in Baho to widen their coffees’ range of flavors beyond the usual associations with the bold brightness of classic Kenyans and hints of Ethiopian florality. For this micro-lot, through the natural anaerobic process, Emmanuel’s team could direct flavors towards a rich, brown sugar-laden character balanced with barely there acidity like in ripe and dark fruits.
At Baho Coffee, the initial steps to process cherries are standardized. It starts with a day of intensive sorting in complete shade, to ensure only the ripest of cherries picked not more than 2 to 3 hours prior, and without any visible defects, proceed to the next steps. The sorted cherries are then floated in a large container, whereby floaters are removed, and only the densest ones are taken into processing as higher-grade lots.
In this case, the densest cherries were fermented in sealed containers to tone down acidity and intensify sweetness. Then, they were placed on drying beds within a custom-built parabolic drying facility, akin to a greenhouse, to protect them from rain and too much sunlight. This drying phase can last from 50 to 55 days.
During this period, the cherries are layered singly with a maximum depth of 2 to 4 cm and turned hourly for the first five days, and then every two hours until day 20. The ambient temperature and that of the coffee are closely monitored to control the pace of drying with the intention of keeping it slow.
By recording temperature and moisture at regular intervals daily, the processing team can adjust their activities accordingly, whenever key drying indicators fall outside the target thresholds. For example, workers might shift the cherries more frequently or cover them with a mesh, or both, to prevent over-fermentation and the formation of molds, which would otherwise turn up in the cup as undesirable flavors indicative of defects.
The drying phase ends upon reaching a moisture content of 11%, at which point the coffee in dried cherry is packed and kept in a dry warehouse until it needs to be milled.