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Congo Kivu Flat Bean & Peaberry

March 5, 2007

This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.

Ninety percent of the coffee grown in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the eastern half of former Zaire) is the Robusta used in Nescafe or other instant coffee. Arabica is grown in the province of Kivu, which is a highland on the western shore of Lake Kivu, one of the many in the Great Rift Valley, which divides Congo from Rwanda. Before WWII, these coffees were classified as "Colombian Milds," roughly equivalent to today's base quality specialty grade coffees. According to newspaper reports, in the 1980s and 90s, these coffees were frequently seized by Rwandan militias. Currently, they are being smuggled voluntarily by growers into Rwanda, and sold as Rwandan coffee, in order to bypass the DRC's export tariffs. So these two lots of Congo Kivu, sold under their proper regional name, are quite rare.

Jim's Review:
The old style classification of Colombian Mild is very accurate for this coffee. The processing is specialty grade. The basic flavor could be called Kenya lite, since it has hints of the black current and spice cake flavors of a dark fruit Kenya. But these flavors are muted, just hints in what is mostly a classic cup profile. The fragrance and flavor of the peaberry are better, while the acidity and body of the regular bean are better. Other than this, the coffees are quite similar. The Peaberry will work best at light City roasts, the regular bean will probably out cup it at darker 2nd crack roasts.

I think these beans are worth a try because they are from an unusual origin. Also there is evidence that this is a lot consisting of a proportion of very fine coffees mixed with rather more mundane ones. When the supply situation is regularized enough to select the best tasting beans more carefully, you'll be able to say you had the coffee way back when. Finally, if there are members of your coffee drinking circle who think most African coffees are too over the top, these will please them a lot.

I do not find these beans particularly suitable for espresso.

Bob's Review of the Kivu Peaberry:
I was very curious to try this coffee, my first from the Congo. I preferred the PB to the flat-bean version, although the prep was not exclusively peaberry (there were perhaps 30 to 40% flat beans mixed in). My cupping roast produced a surprisingly fragrant, toasty, sweet mocha result which carried over to the wet aroma and into the cup.

In addition to the fruitiness experienced by Jim, I also detected citrus and winy notes, confirming Jim's characterization of this as a very clean "Kenya lite".

Roasted darker, into or near 2nd crack, the best qualities of this coffee got lost and I found the darker roast "dumbing down" the charm of the fruit. For my enjoyment, I'd keep it relatively light.

Bobs Score (PB Only)
Dry Fragrance: 4.4
Wet Aroma: 4.3
Flavor: 7.3
Finish: 7.0
Acidity: 7.0
Body: 7.5
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 87.5

Jim's Score

Dry fragrance: 3.5/3.0
Wet Aroma: 3.5/2.5
Flavor: 7.5/6.5
Finish: 7.0/7.0
Acidity: 6.5/7.0
Body: 7.0/8.0
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 85.0/84.0

  • Lighter Roasts: The Peaberry is an aromatic light bodied cup
  • Darker Roasts: The regular will be good, with body and some acidity remaining
  • As Espresso: Not recommended


UPDATED: March 7, 2007