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About Rwanda IsimbeGerman missionaries and settlers brought coffee to Rwanda in the early 1900s. Large scale coffee production was established during the 1930 & 1940s by the Belgian colonial government. Coffee production continued after the Belgian colonists left. By 1970, coffee had become the single largest export in Rwanda and accounted for 70% of total export revenue. Coffee was considered so valuable that, beginning in 1973, it was illegal to tear coffee trees out of the ground. Between 1989 and 1993, the breakdown of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) caused the global price to plummet. The Rwandan government and economy took a hard hit from low global coffee prices. The 1994 genocide and its aftermath led to a complete collapse of coffee exports and vital USD revenue, but the incredible resilience of the Rwandan people is evident in the way the economy and stability have recovered since then.
Modern Rwanda is considered one of the most stable countries in the region. Since 2003, its economy has grown by 7-8% per year and coffee production has played a key role in this economic growth. Coffee has also played a role in Rwanda's significant advancements towards gender equality. New initiatives that cater to women and focus on helping them equip themselves with the tools and knowledge for farming have been changing the way women view themselves and interact with the world around them. Today, smallholders propel the industry in Rwanda forward. The country does not have any large estates. Most coffee is grown by the 400,000+ smallholders, who own less than a quarter of a hectare. The majority of Rwanda's coffee production is Arabica. Bourbon variety plants comprise 95% of all coffee trees cultivated in Rwanda.
Process: Cherry is selectively handpicked to remove any damaged or under ripe cherries. Washing stations only accept perfectly ripe cherries, so farmers take more care when they pick to ensure the maximum amount of cherry is accepted. Cherries are floated to remove those with insect damage or otherwise low density. The cherry is then wet fermented for 24 hours to remove the remaining mucilage. After fermentation is complete, the parchment is sent through grading canals to separate into three levels of density. Finally, the parchment is soaked for around 20 hours to improve quality and shelf life and to remove any remaining mucilage.
After washing, the parchment is removed from the water and is delivered to pre-drying tables to be sorted by hand. Defects are often easier to catch when the parchment is still wet. After this process, the parchment is laid on tables to sun-dry where it is also consistently sorted to remove any remaining defects. The parchment is then bagged up and sent to Rwacof and milled in their mill.
RFA stands for Rainforest Alliance, a certification system that emphasizes climate-smart agriculture. RFA farms have at least 40% of land covered in canopy, significant species diversity (at least 12 native tree species per hectare, on average) and a system of natural vegetation buffers between agricultural land and bodies of water. The farms also use organic fertilizers.
- Country: Rwanda
- Farm: Various Farmers
- Owner: Smallholder farmers working with Rwacof
- Region: Various
- Municipality: Various
- Altitude: 1200 to 2000 meters
- Varietal: Bourbon
- Harvest: March-June
Cup Characteristics: Caramelled aromas of honey, cedar, cocoa and spices. Flavors of blackberry, vanilla, and lemon. A juicy clean cup. The Bourbon variety lends for a deep and rich chocolate flavored coffee. When roasted darker this coffee has a signature bittersweet, caramelly flavors imparted by the sugar transformation during longer roasting.
Roasting Notes: Full City roast will develop the body. When going for light roasts develop up to but not beyond second crack. This coffee can be dark roasted successfully. It is sufficiently hard/dense to enable dark roasting.
Rwanda coffee facts:
Population (2006): 8.85 million people
Coffee Production: 510 thousand bags (60 kg)
Country bag capacity: 132 pounds - 60 kg
Domestic Consumption: Very little. Traditional tea drinkers.
Coffee Export: 510 thousand bags (60 kg)
Cultivated Area: 28,300 hectares (about 70,000 acres)
Arabica Introduced: 1904 by German missionaries.
Specialty Coffee Regions: The western and central regions.
Grades: Superior grades are A1, A2, A3 based on bean density.
Farms: many thousands of small farms (under one acre).
Botanical Varietals: Bourbon and typica.
Rwanda is a relative newcomer to specialty grade Arabica coffee production though coffee has played a major role in the economy of the country with coffee accounting for nearly 65% of export revenues. The country's bloody, genocidal civil war wrought economic and human devastation from 1990 until 2003, when international assistance and political elections brought some degree of stability to the country. Investment in the country's economy and crop production have aided in this tenuous stability.