Brian Beyke

Onyx Coffee Lab - Rwanda Mwasa - Mistobox - June 2014

Brian Beyke


And here we are, at the end of yet another Mistobox.  This has been one of my favorite boxes to date, and it continues with this unique Rwandan offering from Onyx.  It hasn’t been long since we visited Onyx Coffee Lab, and I was excited to see their name and a new offering to dive into when I opened the late June Mistobox.  I’ve sat down with several Rwandan coffees this year, a region that I wasn’t exposed to when I first started this blog, and have been pleasantly surprised with the cups I have continued to get.  With the profiles I’ve seen from Onyx’s previous offerings, I knew I was in for a treat.  Let’s take a look at their Rwanda Mwasa.

Mwasa washing station is privately owned by Alphonse Kayijuka and 10 other large farmers from the Nyamasheke area who all have shares in the business. Alphonse Kayijuka is a farmer and businessman born and raised near the current site of the station. Mwasa started operations in 2006, and sold it’s entire production for 2006 and 2007 to Schluter. Mid season price drops in 2007, and the inability of Kayijuka to hedge his purchases, caused Mwasa to lose a large amount of it’s operation loan and lead to it closing for the next two years.

In 2010, our good friends at Rwanda Trading Company negotiated a three party financing agreement with the bank holding Mwasa’s bad debt. In the same year, Kayijuka brought in the 10 large coffee farmers from his areas to be shareholders. In total, the ownership of Mwasa owns close to 100,000 coffee trees that all supply the station. Since 2010 Mwasa has been in the black, and has repaid a large portion of it’s past due bank debt. The station operates using a 3 disc pulping machine, fermentation tanks and washing channels. Their annual production is 100 tons of parchment, or 72 tons of green export quality.

After the cherry is harvested, immature green cherry is picked out. Then the over-ripe cherry is separated in floatation tanks and only prime red cherry is sent to pulpers. Pulped parchment is fermented for 24-48 hours depending on the local weather conditions at the time. Then the clean, washed parchment is sent for drying. All the coffee is dried on raised beds anywhere from 15-22 days prior to dry milling.


Roaster: Onyx Coffee Lab

Region: Nyamasheke, Rwanda

Producer: Mwasa Washing Station

Process: Fully washed

Varietal: Bourbon

Elevation: 1,650m


Brew Method:

Aeropress (Inverted) | 17g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 198 degrees | 1.35 TDS | 20.15% Ext. (Immersion mode)

Pleasing and sweet intro.  A bit cider-esque, both citrusy and bright but juicy stone fruit sweetness exists as well.  Has a bit of a fudgy meets liquory finish in the first sips, but soon lessens in the cup.  Pretty quickly it shapes into this sparkling lemon-water front, peach, apricot, nectarine juicy body, floral hibiscus and rose and honey ending.  The lingering finish is still citrus, but possibly leaning more towards orange than lemon.  

 Bright, light body, lingering citrus sweetness.

Heavily splashy cup, one of the only ways to explain this cup that packs so much juiciness but with a restricted body.  It’s silky, but yet so viscous and flavorful, it reminds me of a flavored lemonade a bit- refreshing, juicy, sweet, without the added weight. I imagine this would be great iced.  

 The more the cup cools the more syrupy sweet the body gets- sweet like honey but without filling out too much.  A bit buttery, actually.  The sweetness it carries reminds me a bit more of a Yirgacheffe with some playful some fruits, less of the darker dried fruits, and some of that bergamot lingering.   Complex tropical citrus notes as the cup gets to it’s coolest moments, quite pleasing.  Again, really looking forward to trying this iced.  

I consider this the Lo-cal Rwandan.  All that flavor, half the fat (or body).


Brew Method:

Shaken Iced Bonmac | 28g © to 280g (w) | 140g ice | 2:55 total time | 202 degrees

 Crisp, refreshing, effervescent.  Lemon and lime jump on the front, you get a sweet and sugary middle, then a chocolatey, buttery, and primarily syrupy finish.  

 Apricot, mango, raspberry, kiwi, honey, juicy and sweet.  The more you sip the more floral and bergamot notes begin to emerge too.  Like I mentioned in the aeropress, this is very reminiscent of a Yirgacheffe, with a whipped chocolate finish and lingering citrus.  A nice, complex, floral, lingering offering…sorry for the bare bones notes, all, this one is too good to step away from.


 Brew Method:

Chemex (two hario filters) | 30g © to 480g (w) | 3:25 total time | 200 degrees | 1.34 TDS | 19.85% Ext.

Sweet citrus, floral, and cherry turnover aroma.

 Sparkling acidity on the front.  A bit syrupy in the rear of the mouth, caramel and honey sweetness with a bit lingering citrus nipping at the tongue.  Splashy juiciness of blood orange, tangerine, lemon, apricot, plum,  cranberry, fig, cherry, grape, pomegranate, and lightly complex tropical fruit nectar, all seeming to grow more dense and juicy as I write this and sliding into a slick and buttery mouthfeel and finish.  Soooooooo good.

Cooling further these soft floral notes like rose and hibiscus that begin to emerge alongside a sweeter lemon note.  This make reminds me more of some Burundi offerings with it’s rich, juicy, and floral profile that seems to stray from other Rwandans I’ve experienced.  It still remains bright, effervescent, but also seems a bit bigger in body than the Aeropress, more of a medium weighted body.

 It grows more nectary, more sugary sweet, and seems to carry that complex tropical fruit center surrounded by previously mentioned fruit notes, condensed, focused, and coating on the palate with a slightly sharp and lingering citrus acidity with long finish carrying hints of nuts and drifts of tea-leaves as well.


This was a really unexpected Rwandan offering compared to the ones I’ve previously had this year.  It was juicy, splashy, bright, and very fitting for this time of year.  The cup was heavily fragranced, and carried a really unique body that, while remaining saturated with flavor, felt very silky (and at times buttery) on the palate.  Not sure what it is specifically that effects all that flavor, but its a welcomed change.  The body presentation in my aeropress vs Chem60 seemed a bit flip flopped, but either way was interesting.  I liked how restricted the aeropress was while having these big juicy pops, while the Chem60 make carried a more slick mouthfeel and body.  While completely different than the Mahembe, Rwanda from Workshop Coffee, this Mwasa is up there with it as one of the best offerings from the region that I’ve experienced.    


Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.