Cocatu is a cooperative in the area of Tumba town, in the mountainous Rulindo district, Northern Rwanda. Located at 1820 meters, the coop actually draws coffee from the surrounding hills of 2000+ meters. Cocatu is one of the surviving cooperatives from a time when many were formed but few truly prospered. The problem was not the quality of coffee or effort of the farmer-members. It was the absence of sound business advice to control expenses and raise the working capital to buy coffee cherry in the harvest. Cocatu has had one great advantage over the last 5 years though: They have had a consistent buyer paying a great price for the coffee. We can’t offer much to help run the cooperative, we can’t save them from the poor decisions of past leaders, but we can be there supporting them with a price that rewards the great coffee they produce. To me, that’s sustainable agriculture in a broader sense of the term, and having just visited Cocatu last week as I write this, I see many improvements indicating they are not only solvent but thriving. New drying beds, a new disc pulper and many happy workers all indicate their success.
What a benefit to have these early-harvest arrivals, Cocatu showing a beautiful fruited sweetness, such a freshness in the cup. The dry fragrance has the smell of dark cherry and grape, with fine chocolate bittersweetness. In the darker roast ranges a pungent cooked sugar smell develops. Maple sugar and butterscotch billow in the steam after adding hot water, with date, plum and fresh fig in the wet aromatics, a fruited sweetness released on the break. Once the coffee reaches drinking temperature, there is a dark blackberry tartness, raw honey, and a spiced plum note. Cocatu is fairly fruit-forward in cup character, and as the coffee cools, a really nice grape juice flavor accent develops along with tartaric acidity brilliance, and crowning floral grace note. There’s a chocolate malt aspect too, as well as a touch of spice in the finish. Cocatu has fruit juice-like body, and paired with a slightly darker roast level becomes quite fudge-like. But fruits remain at the forefront, even in these darker roasts: both flesh and the tart skins of plum and pluot come to mind. The finish is long and pleasant, with a mingling of sweet fruit notes, cinnamon tea, and dark chocolate hanging on in the aftertaste. And it produces a nice espresso too!