This coffee comes from the Mbilima washing station in Rwanda. This station is owned by the Dukundekawa Cooperative. The station is located in the rugged northwest town of Musasa, around 2,200 metres above sea level. By Rwandan standards, the Mbilima washing station is quite small – it represents around 400 local producers. It employs 40 seasonal workers, 95% of whom are women.
All of the co-op’s members are very small-scale producers, who typically own less than a quarter hectare of land each. They cultivate an average of 275 coffee trees a piece, while also growing subsistence food crops, such as maize and beans. By selling their coffee to the cooperative, these farmers are able to process their cherries centrally, and they can combine their harvests into large enough quantities for export.
An impressive level of care is taken in the processing of this coffee. Cherries are hand picked only when fully ripe and pulped that same night. The coffee is fermented overnight, then graded again using flotation channels, sorted by weight (heaviest usually being the best), and then soaked in water for 24 hours. The washed beans are moved onto pre-drying tables in the shade, where they are sorted for six hours. Finally, they are moved onto drying beds for around 14 days, before being stored and prepared for export.
Membership in Dukunde Kawa is highly sought after, largely because the thriving co-op offers its farmers a huge amount of support, including financial advice, various training programs and opportunities for off-season income.