This is one of those gotchas that can throw a developer for a bit of a loop (at least it just threw me for a loop for the past half hour).

If you run cucumber tests from the command line:

% cucumber features

then Rails.env.test? will be set as expected and config/environments/test.rb will be loaded.

However, if you run:

% rake cucumber

then Rails.env.test? will be false, and config/environments/development.rb will be loaded.


Currently, there are a couple simple workarounds if you want both to behave similarly:

1) be explicit

  • RAILS_ENV=test rake cucumber
  • annoying to have to remember, but hey, that’s what aliases are for, right?

2) Update the cucumber rake task

EDIT: while this correctly sets Rails.env, rails still loads development.rb afterwards
- add the following to the cucumber:ok task in lib/tasks/cucumber.rake:

namespace :cucumber do{:ok => 'db:test:prepare'}, 'Run features that should pass') do |t|
    ENV['RAILS_ENV'] ||= 'test'
    Rails.env =['RAILS_ENV'])


  • This doesn’t occur with rspec, so somehow that gem has gotten the load order correctly. If you know what rspec-rails is doing that cucumber-rails isn’t, please point me in the right direction in the comments.
  • I’ve tested with both rails 3.1 and 3.2.1 and seen the same behavior.
  • Thanks to rails-env-vs-rails-env on stackoverflow for the tip on Rails.env