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Lake Kivu and the Mazuku

Rwanda is known as “the land of a thousand hills.” Its abundant rainfall, high altitude, and lush, rolling landscape provides the ideal conditions for coffee cultivation. Accordingly, Rwanda produces excellent beans, loved for their fresh, vibrant flavors.

Coffee in Rwanda is produced by smallholder farmers who also grow fruits, vegetables, nuts and more, and raise livestock to contribute to their livelihoods. Competing crops in Rwanda’s Western province include Eucalyptus trees, which produce charcoal, and Macadamia nuts. This unique blend of flavors find their way into always memorable beans.    

There’s also high drama in the mountain setting: Lake Kivu, the 1,000 square mile Great Lake from which our Kanyege and Nyumymuba varietals originate, feels like an African Shangri-la — but with a CO2 concentration that explodes once every millennia.

With a surface nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, Lake Kivu is one of the deepest lakes in the world, and sits on top of a rift valley that generates volcanic activity. Along with Lake Nyos and Lake Manoun, both in Cameron, it is one of three lakes known to generate limnic eruptions, with methane and CO2 combining to create massive ‘outgassing’ events capable of suffocating all living things nearby.

The planet last witnessed a limnic eruption in 1986, when Lake Nyos’ CO2concentration was released, suffocating nearly 1,800 people — just two years after a similar event at Lake Manoun. The only evidence of previous eruptions at Kivu are archeological, indicating that dramatic outgassing have occurred every thousand years or so. The Swahili name for these events is mazuku, or evil wind.

While scientists are exploring ways to mitigate these events, it does give one pause. 

And yet: Lake Kivu remains a booming tourist destination. There are no hippos or crocodiles, and the water temperature is just right for swimming. Gorilla trekking safaris, Volcanoes National Park and the Virunga Mountains make Kivu an enduring destination.

Plus, the coffee’s one of a kind. There’s something in the air there…

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