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Review: The Barn Coffee Roasters – Mahembe

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Beans: Mahembe, Red Bourbon, Washed, Western Province, Rwanda. Shop: The Barn Coffee Roasters, Webshop, Coffee shop, Berlin, Germany.

The Barn Coffee Roasters – Mahembe: Background information.

Courtesy by NASA

After a year, The Barn Coffee Roasters have once again added the Rwanda Mahembe coffee to their menu. The Mahembe coffee originates from the western part of Rwanda near Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu is a huge lake that is located in a rift valley near the border with Congo/Kinshasa and is surrounded by mountains. Due to the (underground) volcanic activity in this region the soil is fertile and great for growing coffee.

The Barn Coffee Roasters Mahembe farm

In 1994, after the genocide in Rwanda, Justin Musabiyama returned to his country to rebuild his life. It wasn’t until 2008 that Justin started his own washing station to improve the quality of coffee and provide employment to the people living in the surrounding area. The Mahembe Washing Station was born. With a strong focus on quality and community building Justin now produces 75% of A1 grades and takes a top five position every year in the Cup of Excellence (CEO). Instead of just giving the farmer money for their labour, Justin offers health insurance, school fees and cows as premium payment. This not only helps paying the bills but also ensures that future generations will be able to fend for themselves when they grow older.

The Barn Coffee Roasters point out that this coffee was hand picked and each cherry checked seperately by the pickers for defects. Because of this meticulous process you get a high quality coffee that is super clean something that The Barn is really proud of.

The Barn Coffee Roasters – Mahembe: Opening the package.

The Barn Coffee Roasters Mahembe Siphon

The package of The Barn Coffee Roasters comes in a light brown paper package. The coffee is kept fresh due to the use of a ziplock and degassing valve, something I always mention and appraise. On the back of the package you can read about the company philosophy in English and German (yay!) and on the front there is a lot of information as well. The label contains information about the country and region of origin, the name of the coffee, tasting notes, type of beans and of course a roasting date. I was surprised to find an expiration date on the package since most roasters don’t bother printing it. Kudos to The Barn.

When I open the package a scent of soft sweet caramel comes forth first and is later accompanied by a soft tea like aroma. When eating a bean a lot happens in my mouth. At first there is the crispy hardness of the bean that releases a spike of pepper and sourness before it turns into a black tea flavour. I quite enjoyed eating the bean to be honest. When grinding the coffee there are two distinct sensations coming forth: the first is that of soup bouillon and the second is a hint of white pepper and black tea. It sounds strange but it smells good. It is time to brew and to be a thorough as possible I reviewed the coffee on the Hario V60, Aeropress and Siphon.

The Barn Coffee Roasters – Mahembe: The tasting.

The Barn Coffee Roasters Mahembe Aeropress

Like I mentioned I tried the Mahembe on all three brewers and noticed that each had a different effect on the coffee. The Hario V60 got a balanced cup without a single flavour overruling the others. On the Aeropress the flavours got more juicy but the floral notes were not there any more. On the Siphon brew the Mahembe was even sweeter from the start but somewhat lacked the distinct black tea note. Below is the review of the Hario V60 with added notes of the other brewers below.

As I start brewing the Mahembe, several aroma’s reach my nose during the blooming process. I detect black tea, sweet cherry fruit and a soft hint of white blossom on the nose. When the brewing continues the faint blossom fades and makes place for a stronger black tea scent that is more pungent throughout the brewing. When I’m done I take a sip of the brew; the coffee is still too hot and the coffee offers mostly flavours of black tea and a faint cherry water. The real tasting begins when I let the coffee cool off a little.

When the coffee cools down

The Barn Coffee Roasters Mahembe hario

The sip of coffee now offers much more! Right at the start I notice that the black tea is pushed back by a rising sweet cherry fruit flavour that feels a little watered. With this I mean that it is not a sugar sweet cherry flavour that you might get when chewing cherry gum but rather the natural sweetness of a washed cherry fruit. I slurp oxygen inside and swirl the coffee round in my mouth. There is a sweetness and sourness that mingle in the front of my mouth and I notice that the coffee gets a little sweeter on the tongue. When the coffee rests the black tea comes forth again in the back of my mouth. Gently it accompanies the sweet and sour cherry flavour and takes over my palette. I swallow the coffee and breathe back through my closed mouth and out through my nose. On the back of my tongue I can detect a faint vanilla blossom flavour carried by a hint of chocolate. This is a balanced and clean coffee that feels flimsy and silky in my mouth. The acidity reminded me of unripe pear and can best be described as malic.

Side note: On the Aeropress I felt that the flavours of the brew were juicier, as well as detecting more of the chocolate sweetness. On the Siphon this coffee was sweet on the tongue right from the start. The coffee got an improved chocolate and caramel sweetness as it cooled off. Although these aspects sound more appealing, it did break the balance of the flavours somewhat.

The Barn Coffee Roasters – Mahembe: The Verdict.

I can see why The Barn Coffee Roasters take such pride in the Rwamda Mahembe. The roast looks great and no defects in my batch at all. This coffee offers a clean and balanced cup of aromas and flavours. The black tea flavour can clearly be detected and is supported by the watered sweet cherry flavour. As the coffee cools other aspects become more clear such as a note of chocolate and a vanilla blossom tea in the aftertaste. I prefer keeping these flavours balanced and keeping the profile of this coffee as it is. Brewing with the Aeropress and Siphon do give you a sweeter cup, but you will sacrifice the balance of this coffee in return. And that is not what you want, believe me!

The Mahembe is has a unique profile that should be appreciated in the right setting. It is not a coffee to drink during rush hour or when you have a minute before leaving for work. This coffee should be enjoyed while taking your time.

Click on the link and you’ll go directly to the webshop of The Barn Coffee Roasters.

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