Onyx Coffee Lab

Rwanda Gishamwana Island

Lemongrass, citrus, brown sugar.

This coffee launches with fragrances of tart cherry, bran muffin, butterscotch, and a hint of citrus candy. Tasting notes include delicate florals, nectarine, and white grape, with pomegranate and lemongrass in the mix. Join these to sweetly tart acidity and velvety body for island experience to remember.

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Western Province
Gishamwana Island
Emmanuel Rwakagara
Washed Process

Meet Emmanuel Rwakagara

There’s something magical about an island, so it only stands to reason there’d be something extra special about coffee grown on one: Gishamwana Island, to be exact. This private bit of land in Lake Kivu is home to the coffee estate of Emmanuel Rwakagara. A relatively short boat ride from the Rwandan shore, Emmanuel cultivates 35,000 coffee trees. Shade-grown, organic, and isolated from pests and diseases by the wide stretch of water, Gishamwana Island coffee is milled and dried on the island as well.

A place of great biodiversity which includes cows, goats, and allegedly an albino rabbit, the island grows some of Rwanda’s finest coffee. But Emmanuel does more than own an island and grow coffee. In 2001, he and 110 other coffee farmers founded COOPAC, with the goal of reviving the coffee industry in their area. Currently Emmanuel serves as the managing director.

Western Province, Rwanda

Rwanda is divided into five provinces, with the western province hugging the shoreline of great Lake Kivu. This prime coffee growing country is one reason Rwanda is sometimes called “the land of a thousand hills.” Seven districts further divide this area: Karongi, Rubavu, Rusizi, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, Rutsiro, and Nyabihu. Just south of Nyamasheke is the Nyungwe Forest National Park, one of the largest montane forests, home to huge biodiversity and an estimated 25% of Africa’s primates including mountain gorillas.

Since coffee is grown over most of Rwanda, there are few coffee vs non-coffee geographic restrictions. Therefore regional designations can be a bit vague. Instead, roasters often use the name of the district of origin along with the farmer, co-op, or washing station’s name. Infrastructure has been an ongoing challenge, but in the past few years, various projects across Rwanda are helping to make room for coffee farmers to begin to flourish.

Springdale, AR

Onyx Coffee Lab

Lest the myth perpetuate that specialty coffee does not come from Arkansas, Onyx Coffee Lab is blowing that particular urban legend out of the water while creating a few of their own. Husband-wife owners Jon and Andrea Allen have rapidly taken the coffee world by storm with their combination of art and science.

The magic starts with sourcing, with countless small sample batches from coffee importers and with direct visits to farms around the world. "I know direct trade means a lot of different things to different people, but for us if we don’t put money in the producers hands we won’t call it direct trade," says Jon. Once found, the coffees are carefully roasted in twenty-pound or smaller batches, then shared with the three Onyx cafés and over 150 wholesale customers in thirty states.

Clearly Onyx Coffee Lab knows what they're doing: not only were they named Imbibe Magazine's 2016 Coffee Bar of the year, this northwest Arkansas matrix of coffee know-how just cleaned house at the April 2017 U.S. Coffee Championships. Andrea Allen placed second in the Barista Championship, Dylan Siemans won first in Brewer's Cup, and roaster Mark Michaelson place first in the Roaster Championship!

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