Producer: Rwanda Trading Company
Origin: Nyamasheke District, Western Province
Varietal: Red Bourbon
Altitude: 1700 metres above sea level
Flavours: Tangerine, Golden Raisin, Cocoa, Vanilla
SCAA Score: 85.5
Where is it from?
In Rwanda, coffee has brought hope for a better future since the dark days of 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, with an average of approximately 180 trees each. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu in the west 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 late May / early June.
The Nyungwe Washing Station was acquired in 2014 by the Rwanda Trading Company. Since RTC took on Nyungwe, initial investments have been made in a rebuilding much of the washing station infrastructure with the inclusion of a brand new Penagos eco-pulper which uses 80% less water than the previous machines. Nyungwe washing station currently serves some 546 smallholder coffee farmers who grow bourbon at altitudes of between 1,660 and 2,100 metres. Some farmers are located up to 10km from the station and as such 12 collection points have been established in order to reduce transportation difficulties for the growers. This also protects the quality of the freshly picked cherry by reducing the possibility of fermentation before pulping at the station takes place. The coffee is handpicked by the smallholder members and delivered to the Nyungwe washing station where it is pulped. This initially separates the dense beans from the immature unripe beans before going into fermentation tanks for around 12 hours. Once the fermentation process is completed, the beans enter the washing channels where floaters are separated further and the dense beans are cleaned of mucilage. The washed beans will then enter soaking tanks where they can sit under clean water for between 18 and 24 hours. This soaking process allows amino acids and proteins in the cellular structure of each bean to develop, which results in higher levels of acidity and complex fruit flavours in the cup.
The beans are then transferred to the initial drying tables where hand sorting for defects
begins - unripe beans are supposedly more visible whilst the beans are still damp. This first stage of drying can last around 6 hours before the beans are gathered and laid in thicker layers for the remaining 14-20 days of the drying period (depending on weather and temperature). The dry parchment coffee is then rested for around 1 month before being milled, sorted for defects
and then immediately packed into GrainPro for export. The farmers receive two payments for their coffee; an initial payment when the cherry is delivered, followed by an end of season bonus when a further payment is made depending on the prices that have been achieved for their coffee.
This coffee scored a very high 85.5 in SCAA cupping. It is roasted to a medium profile with flavour notes of tangerine, golden raises, cocoa and vanilla, producing a sweet and rounded cup.
AeroPress, Cafetire, Pour Over, Espresso