With the arrival of this season's fresh Rwandan coffees, we've been adorning our shops with Rwanda-related literature, textiles and photographs – and, of course, delicious Rwandan coffees. If we could take every single one of our customers along on our annual trip to Rwanda, we would! In the coming weeks, we will be doing the next best thing: sharing a few of the incredible stories and images we've collected along the way...
Our visits to Rwanda take us through the wide bustling streets of the capital, Kigali, into rural areas with red dusty roads lined with banana trees and those oh-so-familiar eucalypts. We pass terraced hills where people grow maize and beans in small veggie patches. The lush green landscape provides a striking backdrop for the bright beautiful colours of everyone’s clothes.
At the end of this long journey are the people we have come to visit: washing station managers, coffee farmers and their families, and the women who carefully sort parchment by hand – all working with dedication towards the production of beautiful coffee, and the creation of a better future for their country.
Nowhere are our relationships stronger or more meaningful and mutual than with our coffee community in Rwanda. Which might explain why, at the end of every visit, when our Rwandan friends ask us “Will you come for longer next time?” and “How about twice next year?” we’re always tempted to say yes.
Coffee in Rwanda
Major reform to the Rwandan coffee industry began in 2000, when coffee was recognised as one of a handful of sectors that could revive the economy. The industry began to receive the support of government, NGOs and the private sector. It soon became apparent that the most sustainable strategy would be to add value to Rwandan coffee through the production of higher quality, specialty‑grade beans.
And so the hard work began, to develop and reshape the industry to support quality production. This involved the building and rebuilding of coffee farms, the establishment of washing stations, and the education of the people who process coffee and, increasingly, the people who grow it.
The vast majority of coffee in Rwanda is produced by 400,000 small-scale farmers, who own less than a hectare of land each, or around 175 trees, which are grown alongside subsistence crops such as maize and beans. The creation of cooperatives has allowed these farmers to process their cherries centrally and combine their harvests into quantities large enough for export.
The establishment of washing stations has allowed for quality control on the processing side of coffee production. This has significantly improved the quality of coffee produced, enabling individuals, cooperatives and local buying groups to have more control over every stage of the process.
The relative newness of the specialty coffee industry in Rwanda means that the people we work with are enthusiastic, open-minded and eager to learn as much as they can. Our colleagues there often ask us how coffee is produced and processed in other countries, and they are willing to experiment and innovate in order to identify the most successful methods.
As a result of all this hard work, Rwanda is now producing many exceptional coffees, with more and more high-quality coffees showing up on the cupping table every time we visit.
Each year, we look forward to our trip to Rwanda to see what our coffee industry friends have been up to. We love getting the chance to taste and purchase the coffees that blow us away. And we REALLY love it when these coffees arrive in Australia, ready for us to roast, brew, bag and share with our lovely Market Lane customers.