Producer: Rwanda Trading Company
Origin: Gitwe cell, Karambi sector
Varietal: Red Bourbon
Altitude: 1760 metres above sea level
Flavours: Floral with hints of Assam black tea, stone fruits, caramel sweetness with soft mouthfeel
Cup Score: 85.75
Importer: Falcon Coffees
Where is it from?
In Rwanda, coffee has brought hope for a better future since the dark days of the Civil War that shook the country back in 1994. Coffee has been used as a vehicle for positive change in the years that have followed, and the country is now rightly heralded as a top producer of fine speciality coffee.
Coffee was introduced to Rwanda in 1903 by German missionaries. As a cash crop, it received government backing but the focus was very much on quantity rather than quality. However, the impact of the world coffee crisis in the late 1990s, when prices fell for several years below the cost of production, caused many Rwandan coffee farmers to rethink their position. Working hand in hand with the Rwandan Coffee Board (OCIR Café), international NGOs such as USAID, the Gates Foundation, and other coffee-focused organisations, a speciality coffee sector was created in the early 2000s.
Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of Bourbon.
The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family.
Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu and in the southern province. Rwandan smallholders organise
themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet mills
or washing stations as they are known locally. Flowering takes place between
September and October and the harvest runs from March to July, with shipments starting in August through December
Perhaps the station with the most revered coffees of all our Rwandan speciality lots, Gitwe is in fact the smallest washing station of all RTC’s stations in the Western Province. Covering an area of less than 1 hectare, Gitwe is blessed with being situated at the top of a mountain valley at almost 2000 metres.
Just 3km from Gatare and near to the town of Kamina in the Karambi sector, Gitwe is the name of the land on which the station is built. Healthy coffee trees and tropical fruit line the trail down to the station from the road above.
Built recently in 2016 and bought by RTC in 2018 who employed 6 staff full time with the addition of 50 during the season. 90% are women. Despite being a tiny station, 1020 farmers contribute to Gitwe’s annual production of 500 tons of cherry, which is all high scoring specialty quality, all of whom have received training through RTC’s training program. Farm sizes range from just 150 coffee trees to 6000 (2.5 hectares). Though most farms are 2-3km from the station, many of the farmers are elderly with limited mobility and so the area is serviced by RTC through 15 cherry collection points.
Station manager, Augustin, is from Kigali but after a period of ill health left the city in favour of the mountain air and rural environment. He left the city to manage and live near the washing station in 2018 and has not been sick since.
Excitingly, for those like us, for whom the arrival of fresh crop from Gitwe each year is like an early Christmas present.
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