Every coffee travels a journey and some coffees have journeys that are longer and more complex than expected. The journey of our newest single origin began over 8 months ago when we at Firelight Coffee Roasters had the privilege to sample a few coffees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was not an unusual start to a coffee’s journey as we try dozens of samples every month. What was unique was the region, the spectacular taste, and a story of Mighty Peace.
History of DRC
We had, quite frankly, never tried coffee from DRC before. Little known as a coffee producing country, the almost land-locked nation has had a difficult past. First settled by foragers, the area that now comprises the DRC was home to several thriving African societies including the Kingdom of Kongo, the Azande, Luba and Lunda peoples from the 14th to 19th centuries. This all came to an end when it became the personal property of the Belgian King, Leopold II in 1885. After almost 25 years (and an untold number of deaths from disease and exploitation in the effort to produce rubber for export to Europe), Congo became an official colony of Belgium. Gaining its independence in 1960, DRC was plagued by unrest and violence culminating in the First and Second Congo wars that ended in 2003. It wasn’t until 2018 that the first peaceful transition of power was achieved through democratic processes. In the midst of all this unrest, exploitation, and violence- coffee made an appearance.
Cupping Mapendo Coffee
Going back to our first taste of DRC’s coffee 8 months ago, we were blown away by the appearance it made. The coffee that sparkled the most on the table for us was called “Mapendo”. It is made up, according to the importer website, of “16 separate lots by 4,200 farmers, nearly 40% of which are women.” Those lots combined to create a wonderfully complex coffee that mirrors the complexity of the history of DRC. We tasted everything from cedar to white grapes to melon and peach. Although the journey started for us at that cupping table, the journey of Mapendo, a word meaning “love” in Swahili, started even earlier with an importer we are so pleased to be working with- Mighty Peace Coffee.
In a nation that has been wracked by unrest, Mighty Peace Coffee is striving to bring exactly their namesake: mighty peace. Through the development and exportation of high quality coffee, they are seeking to change the lives of the farmers they work with and the communities those farmers live in. Mighty Peace was started by a group of international businesspeople, human rights defenders, and community organizers with the intention of transforming the coffee industry and the world. They have been the caretakers of this fine coffee from the time it was harvested until it reached us here in Atlanta, Georgia. This caretaking was no small task! They had to battle COVID lockdowns, shipping delays, active volcanoes (really, not joking) and a myriad of other obstacles. They’ve done it, too- from the South Kivu province of the Kalehe territory, we are so pleased to partner with Mighty Peace Coffee to bring Mapendo – Love from Africa.