Rwanda coffee sourcing update
On the 1st of May 2016 we travelled to Rwanda for our second visit. I was accompanied this time by Stephen who works at the roastery and David, head of coffee for Flying Coffee Bean. As this was our second visit to Rwanda I had some idea of what to expect and had made arrangements to visit washing stations that we worked with last year and some new ones that we hadn't seen before.
Speciality coffee from Rwanda has grown significantly in popularity over the last decade and the future looks very promising. This season isn't working out particularly well for farmers and washing stations as cherry production is much lower this year than the last season. It's normal for harvest volumes to vary but weather conditions over the last year have not been ideal. Unfortunately the C price of coffee is also low at the moment which will mean a challenging financial year. The commodity price of speciality grade coffee tends not to change too much as prices can be adjusted to represent the value of the coffee. The real financial damage is done through the sale of the lower grade coffees as unfortunately these can sometimes sell for less than the cost of production. All coffee washing stations produce a significant amount of lower grade coffees. These are produced using the defective, underipe and damaged beans and it is essential for producers to ensure that nothing goes to waste. The best margin is made on speciality grade coffees that cup at 83 and above so it is important for farmers and washing stations to work hard to increase the percentage production of the best coffee. During our recent visit we observed several techniques that had been put into place to help to achieve this.
Nova and Karisimbi
Our first few days were spent with Jean Jacques from Rwanda Trading Company (RTC). They work with around 70 washing stations in Rwanda and these are either co-operative owned, private or owned outright by RTC. Nova and Karasimibi are both women owned operations. In Rwanda women are heavily involved in coffee production at all levels from ownership down to sorting and processing tasks at mills and washing stations. Both of these washing stations are fairly new and it was great to see how much work had been done building new fermentation tanks and grading channels. Good quality processing facilities make a significant difference to the quality of the finished product.
Nova washing station:
Karisimbi washing station:
On day two we visited the Rwanda Trading Company main office and cupping lab. It was still early in the season and not much coffee had been delivered from the washing station but we were still able to cup some really nice samples. In the afternoon we left Kigali for Huye Mountain, a washing station located in the south close to the town of Butare. After repairing a flat tyre on the way we made it with just enough time to spare to tour their red bourbon plantation at sunset. We then spent the evening observing the processing. It's a slick operation with a very good focus on quality.
On day three we left Huye mountain late in the morning for the long drive from Butare to Karora washing station located near the town of Kibuye. We bought an exclusive micro-lot from Karora last year so it was nice to see the washing station for the second year running. This one is a small co-operative of 19 members. They all have their own small plantation of red bourbon trees but they buy cherry from around 200 additional local farmers. We should be receiving samples from them towards the end of June.
Here are a few photos from the washing station:
Part two will feature more washing stations located on the eastern side of Lake Kivu.