First of the new Rwandan coffees we have seen this year has landed, and what a very good one to start off with.
From the Nyamagabe district, in the Southern Province of Rwanda, its a perfect example of a well prepared looked after Rwandan coffee.
You can buy it here, or read about it below
This 100% red bourbon coffee was processed at Buf Café’s Remera washing station, at 1,935 metres above sea level in the south of Rwanda.
Buf Café was founded in 2003 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond. Buf is now managed by Epiphanie and her son, Samuel Muhirwa, who is taking an increasingly active role in running and expanding the business. The title ‘Buf’ derives from ‘Bufundu’, the former name of the region in which its washing stations are located.
Epiphanie, who was born in 1959, was widowed during the 1994 genocide – which claimed over 800,000 lives in just 3 months – but chose not to leave her family’s small coffee farm. Instead she set about rebuilding and developing her business, and with it the local community. She started Buf Café in 2003, when she established Remera washing station with a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the USAID-financed PEARL project.
This transformational programme was aimed at switching the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality – and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.
Buf Café now owns two coffee washing stations – Remera and Nyarusiza – as well as its own coffee trees, and buys coffee cherries from as many as 7000 surrounding smallholder farmers, including five different local cooperatives!
The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees (less than a quarter of a hectare) and use some of their land to cultivate other crops such as maize and beans to feed themselves and their families. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to take their children to school, pay for medical care and for investment in livestock such as a cow for milk, both for use in the home and for sale locally.
The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station – on foot, by bike or on trucks that pick up cherries from various collection stations in the area. Before being pulped the cherries are deposited into flotation tanks, where a net is used to skim off the floaters. The cherries are then pulped the same day – almost always in the evening – using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight. They are then dry fermented overnight (left in tank with no added water) for 8 to 12 hours. Next, the wet parchment is sorted again using grading channels – water is sent through the channels and the lighter (ie. lower grade) beans are washed to the bottom, while the heavier cherries remain at the top of the channel. The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours, before being moved to raised screens for ‘wet-sorting’ by hand – this is a task almost always carried out by women.
The sorted beans are finally moved onto African beds (raised screens) and dried in the sun until they reach 12 degrees humidity. The drying tables are covered between 11am and 2pm in order to protect the beans from the strong midday sun. The dried beans are stored in parchment in Buf’s warehouse, in carefully labeled lots, until they are ready for export. The coffee is then sent to the dry mill in Kigali, from where it is loaded and shipped.
In the cup expect a delicious sweetness that reminded me of hobnob biscuits, but the acidity soon kicks in with the flesh of white grapes and hints of orange and peaches.
Farm: Buf Café’s Remera washing station and surrounding smallholder farmers
Varietal: Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully Washed and dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,935 metres above sea level
Owner: Epiphanie Mukashyaka
Town/City: Between Butare and Cyangugu
Region: Nyamagabe district, Southern Province