News / Economy

Rwanda's 'Specialty Coffee' Under Attack by Stink Bugs

A picture taken on October 26, 2011 shows a coffee plant at the farm of Rwanda's Luis Ntiricakeza in Sakara Village, Eastern Rwanda.
A picture taken on October 26, 2011 shows a coffee plant at the farm of Rwanda's Luis Ntiricakeza in Sakara Village, Eastern Rwanda.

Multimedia

Audio

Rwanda is gaining a worldwide reputation for its bourbon and other specialty coffee, a crop grown in the country's rich volcanic soils. Specialty coffee comprises almost one-third of Rwanda's agricultural exports. But a sizable portion of the crop is being compromised by a defect called "potato taste." There is growing evidence that potato taste may be in part caused by the antestia, or "stink bug."

At the beginning of January, University of California entomologist Thomas Miller joined a team of Rwandan researchers to examine the causes and impacts of potato taste, and its possible connection to the antestia bug. Cathy Majtenyi asked Professor Miller more about his research trip.

MAJTENYI: "Describe what is meant by specialty coffee."

MILLER: "Ordinary coffee does not have any taste qualifications, but specialty coffee is very much like the wine industry: the taste and smell and odor is everything. And they have strict standards that they use to judge the quality of the coffee crop. Usually the bourbon variety of arabica coffee is the one that they use for that. Specialty coffees usually are determined by the buyers. They are based on this very strict, what they call "cupping" taste process. Specialty coffee has very high standards, and in fact it is very common to lose upwards of a third or a fourth of the crop because it does not meet the standards."

MAJTENYI: "Potato taste" has been defined as a defect that compromises the quality of coffee and is threatening to deter international buyers from purchasing Rwandan coffee. Tell me more about potato taste and what causes this defect."

MILLER: "Potato taste is something that the tasters come up with. For want of a better word, they have dozens and dozens of characteristic potato flavors: walnut, berry, cedar, a whole bunch of them. To me, it tastes like old toenails. It has to do with the subtle aroma and taste of the coffee. For some reason, potato taste is peculiar to this East African area. It may have something to do with the volcanic soil. It may have something to do with the insect complex that is unique here. The exact cause of potato taste is not really known because there are so many elements that go into the final taste of coffee.

MAJTENYI: "You and your team were in Rwanda under the auspices of the Global Knowledge Initiative. You indicated that you wanted to learn more about potato taste and its possible connection with the antestia bug. What are you doing with the knowledge that you gained?"

MILLER: "Global Knowledge Initiative hopes at the end of this process to put in place the steps necessary to address the potato taste problem broadly. They asked me to participate because I am giving them advice on how to include work on the bug, because there is a loose association between potato taste and the bug.  We are collecting biological samples in collaboration with the industry here and the university (National University of Rwanda). We are designing approaches to put together teams to address the issue. My purpose is to help them collaborate and connect with other people in the world who can weigh in on this problem."

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9211
JPY
USD
119.18
GBP
USD
0.6722
CAD
USD
1.2509
INR
USD
62.518

Rates may not be current.