Our direct trade Rwanda project


We've already written two blog posts that mention our direct link with farmers in Rwanda. This post will give readers a bit more information on our future plans over there. 

We started roasting coffee three and a half years ago on a small machine in our coverted garage at home. Our aim at the start was always to establish ourselves as one of the top speciality coffee roasters in Sussex. After a couple of years of hard work we realised we needed to aim higher and look to establish ourselves as a leading roaster within the UK and Europe market. In order to do that we invested heavily in equipment that would help us log and analyze roasts, cupped coffees more regularly and in that process developed a massive desire to work more directly with farmers around the world.

We've always been passionate about coffees from Africa. They offer some of the most amazing taste profiles and complexity that can be found within the speciality coffee industry. As we had purchased some amazing Rwandan coffees from Europe based importers we decided it would be a great place to start off our own direct trade program.

Most coffee in Rwanda is farmed by small hold farmers who grow Red Bourbon trees on their small plot of land. They will look after and harvest from these trees delivering the cherries to a local washing station. In many cases the farmers will also be co-operative members who own and operate the washing station. This is how the Gishyita washing station operates and it is the kind of model we are most interested in supporting. The 105 members and farmers are actively involved in running the day to day washing station operation so they don't just grow and harvest but also have an interest in the success of the washing station. Payment for cherries is made on delivery followed by an end of season bonus that is calculated based on the success of the co-operative for that season. We were very pleased to see that every effort was made to ensure all of the coffee cherries were used to generate a revenue product. While we are only interested in the speciality element this tends to be only around 30% of the output of the Gishyita washing station. The rest is split into various grades and the lowest quality cherries are still used to produced semi-washed coffee that is sold for use in the local market. 

A 30% speciality output is much lower than it could be. Rather than increase total production we are interested in helping them increase the percentage of speciality production as this generates significantly more profit than the lower grade coffees. In order to do this we are working on a development proposal with our contacts in Rwanda. We hope to make a contribution towards drying tables and other necessary items that will make a significant different to the success of the co-operative. 

This brings the discussion back to the quality already being produced. It's excellent and in our recent cupping sessions at the roastery is scoring a solid 86 points. The standout plus point with this coffee is the balance. While many African coffees (ie Ethiopia and Kenya) can offer incredible complexity (we love our Kenya coffees!) the balance is sometimes thrown off by the intensity of the acidity and floral notes. The Gishyita offers excellent balance making it a great single origin espresso, blend component and also for filter. You can now buy this coffee on our webstore and delivery is free on orders of £15 or more. We recently introduced Europe wide delivery using DHL global mail so if you live outside the UK you can still shop online with us.

Here are some great pictures we took of the washing station in May 2015:

coffee drying tables rwanda

a worker sorting coffee in rwanda

workers sorting coffee beans in rwanda

And finally, here is a video we put together of some of the highlights: