Origins: Rwanda


Overview

Altitude Range: 1400 – 1800 MASL


Language Spoken: Kirwanda, French


Harvest: March – July


Coffee Production: 246,000 bags (Crop 2013 – ICO)


Common Varieties: Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai


Avg Farm Size: Mostly small farmers with an average of 0 – 4 hectares. 

General Cup Profile

Rwanda, like its other East African neighbors, grows mostly Bourbon and Bourbon derivative varieties. These coffees are known for their extreme sweetness and big bodies. Rwandan Coffee typically has notes of dried red fruits like raisin and plum, and citric acidity to support the generally rich characteristics of the cup. 

Growing Regions

Northern Province

  • Rulindo (1775 MASL) Located in the northern province on Rwanda, Rulindo offers one of the finest coffees in the country. Rulindo has all the necessary characteristics to produce exceptional coffee, fertile red-soil, only Arabica varieties, and the people’s will to produce excellent coffee.

Western Province

  • Gishamwana Coffee Island: What an amazing coffee farm location! This project is literally located in the middle of Lake Kivu. Coffee is transported by boat to be processed on the mainland. They have over thirty five thousand coffee trees planted with environmental harmony in mind. This farm is in transition to becoming certified organic and is currently farmed with organic farming practices amongst forestry that provides a level of shade much greater than typical African coffee. Also, by nature of Gishamwana's isolation from other coffee, many of the other natural coffee diseases and pests quite simply have not made the boat over.
  • Kigeyo organic washing station: This washing station is high, even in a country where most of the washing stations are high to start with.  Up at 1900 meters (and collecting coffee from another 200 meters up on the hillsides, Kigeyo was built in 2009 by Emmanuel of to get there the good coffees are.  We had this coffee done in the Kenyan double fermentation style and have been very impressed with the results.
  • Kabirizi (1765 MASL)

Southern Province and Eastern Province 

The Southern and Eastern Provinces of Rwanda have incredibly high elevations, but they do not yet account for a large percentage of the total specialty coffee production in the country. There are motivated specialty coffee producers in these areas and they are of extreme interest to our sourcing team. As our sourcing operations continue to develop in Rwanda, we may be seeing more gems from these parts of the country. 

Processing

Washed and some natural

Unique Systems

Since 2002, Rwanda has being changing the world perception about their coffee to be positioned as a specialty coffee producer. Since this moment, farmers have seen the value in producing specialty coffee, and the prices of the cherries have increased. Coffee represents an important exporting product for Rwandan economy, and from 2002 to 2006 the exportation of coffee grew a 30% per year. Long-term relationships were created with international buyers, guarantying the production and supply of coffee.

The Rwanda government has developed a coffee program with five priority programs, which are the following:

  • Improving the use of good farming practices and integrated pest management system through focused agronomist support
  • Providing a voluntary turnaround support program for Coffee Washing Stations that have the potential to become profitable
  • Improving sales and distribution mechanisms through capacity building of private exporters
  • Implementing a census and GIS study of all coffee producing regions
  • Implementing value addition activities including Toll Roasting in China, Toll Roasting in Middle East, and a partnership with M&S. 

Production History

Rwanda has a long coffee tradition dating back to the 20th century. German missionaries introduced coffee in 1904. The first coffee trees were planted at Mibilizi in Cyangugu, and the first Rwanda variety is named after Mibilizi. Coffee gradually extended its cultivation to Kivu region and soon to all over Rwandan territory.

Nowadays coffee is the largest agricultural export and second only to minerals exportations. Rwandan coffee is recognized as a premium origin in the specialty coffee industry. Rwanda only accounts for .2% of the total world's production of coffee. 

The story of coffee is a successful one, given the war-ridden past. In 1994 civil war devastated the county and the coffee sector, destroying the infrastructure, wiping out coffee plantations and destroyed the faith of the producers. But two decades later coffee industry was rebuilt, winning international competitions and attracting lots of specialty buyers all over the world. There are several factors behind the success in the coffee industry; the privatization of the industry in the late 1990s, lowering the trade barriers, lifting of restrictions on coffee farmers, production of fully washed coffee and fund and technical assistance from USAID.

Looking Forward

At Cafe Imports we have been extremely excited by the Rwandan coffee projects we have invested in. Our sourcing team has created several strong partnerships with Coops and producers that are not only producing exceptional coffee, but doing so in harmony with nature and their surroundings. We see incredible Fair Trade and Organic coffee from Rwanda, and this East African option has proven to be an exceptional second semester coffee for roasters.

Rwanda, like Burundi, battles the "potato" defect, in which a roasted coffee bean when ground smells distinctively of a green potato. Rwanda and outside organizations are pouring large amounts of energy and money into research surrounding this issue, and we have seen this defect decrease significantly over the past several years largely due to their efforts. At Cafe Imports, we are directly supporting this research.