DRC’s First-Ever Coffee Cupping Competition Rejuvenates Coffee Sector


The first-ever specialty coffee cupping competition in the DRC, Saveur du Kivu, took place with great Congolese and international fanfare on June 2nd and 3rd.  The events were hosted by the Government of South Kivu and the National Coffee Organization of DRC, and the competition followed Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) global standards to grade and evaluate coffees. 30 coffee-growing organizations throughout the DRC submitted samples.

Judges, led by lead judge Beth Ann Caspersen of Equal Exchange, held an objective evaluation of all traceable specialty coffees grown and processed in the DRC, while lead organizer and “coordinnateur en chief,” Chris Treter from On the Ground, Andre de Groote from Catholic Relief Services, and Richard Hide from Twin led a panel discussion with representatives from growing organizations, government, international NGOs, and buyers about building a sustainable specialty coffee industry in the DRC. The South Kivu Minister of Agriculture participated in the second half, fielding comments and questions.

Growers were concerned about a lack of follow through from the National government on the 2010 National Plan for Agriculture and pressured the Minister to lessen the 12% tax currently placed on any green coffee sales (global national averages of such taxes are said to be between 1-2%). All parties agreed that barriers to the processing and trading of coffees were rampant with a lack of infrastructure, access to market, and the very real issue of security. As the Provincial Minister of Agriculture, Adolphine Muley stated, “Today we speak of building the specialty coffee industry, but last night there was an attack on the Goma airport. We will not be able to build the coffee industry sufficiently until we have security.”

Partners in the Saveur du Kivu include UGEAFI, On The Ground, Catholic Relief Services and Twin. Judges included Lead Judge Beth Ann Caspersen of Equal Exchange, Timothy Hill of Counter Culture, Caleb Nicholes of Kickapoo Coffee, Stephen Vick of Blue Bottle Coffee, Brian Speckman of InterAmerican Importers, Anne Costello of  Peace Coffee, and Katherine Nolte and Emmanuel Harelimana  of Twin.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 10.56.36 AMSaveur du Kivu was organized in conjunction with On the Ground‘s Run Across Congo, a 7-day, 7-marathon running expedition through South Kivu undertaken by a team of women, raising funds and awareness for gender equality initiatives while promoting the reemergence of a specialty coffee industry in the coffee growing regions of eastern Congo.

The Governor of South Kivu, Marcelin Chishambo Ruhoya, and his cabinet attended the closing ceremonies of the events, stating that his number one priority is the inclusion of women in decision making roles as a means to help rebuild a specialty coffee market in a country that has seen exports drop from 130,000 tonnes in the mid 1980’s to just 8,000 tons/year in 2012 due to conflict in a region that has seen nearly 6 million deaths in the past 20 years.

The top five coffees of the Saveur du Kivu:

  1. CPCKA cooperative with a score of 89.41
  2. Virunga Coffee with a score of 88.08
  3. SOPACDI Coffee Cooperative with a score of 87.53
  4. RAEK Coffee Cooperative with a score of 87.53
  5. Muungano Coffee Cooperative with a score of 86.78

For more information on Saveur du Kivu or to schedule interviews with organizers or participants, contact Chris Treter at chris@highergroundstrading.com

Learn more about Saveur du Kivu
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Twitter: @RunAcrossCongo

About On The Ground

On The Ground’s purpose is to support sustainable community development in farming regions across the world, accomplishing this mission by partnering with other philanthropic agencies, donors, and communities to provide opportunities for indigenous farming communities around the globe to build lasting infrastructure. In concert with sustainable trading practices by OTG partners, this infrastructure makes it possible for these communities to create real and meaningful prosperity for all their citizens. Learn more at www.onthegroundglobal.org.