In March 2018, we had a super special visit from a long-time Market Lane friend and collaborator, Sam Muhirwa of Buf Coffee in Rwanda.
We’ve been offering coffee from Buf since we opened in 2009, working with Sam, his mother Epiphanie and his brother Aloys to bring beautiful Rwandan coffees to Market Lane. Buf Coffee owns four washing stations in Rwanda and buys coffee from up to 7,000 smallholder famers (including five different cooperatives). Buf offers strong support to the communities that supply it, providing employment to hundreds of local people during harvest time (May – June/July) and ten permanent positions year-round. Buf also produces exceptional coffee! Their coffees have been awarded in the Cup of Excellence competition on an amazing five separate occasions.
This was Sam’s first visit to Australia and he spent his time visiting Market Lane’s cafes, meeting our baristas and tasting coffees, as well as paying visits to some of our wholesale customers (in both Melbourne and Sydney), who have served and loved Buf’s coffee for years. We also snuck in some other Australian must-do’s, including a trip to the National Gallery of Victoria, a ferry ride in Sydney Harbour, Sam’s first-ever taste of a pavlova, and an obligatory cuddle of a koala!
Sam’s visit culminated in an amazing event, hosted by Wild Life Bakery in Brunswick. This was a wide-ranging, fascinating in-conversation with Jenni Bryant, Market Lane’s general manager and Rwanda buyer. It was attended by the Market Lane team, as well as our wholesale customers, other Melbourne coffee professionals and a variety of customers and coffee-curious people. Sam’s sense of humour, wit, knowledge and intelligence beguiled us all, as we got to learn first-hand about his day-to-day work in Rwanda, and Buf’s on-the-ground relationships with producers. We also got to hear about Sam’s plans for Buf’s future, and some new projects he’s excited about – including the current construction of a kindergarten for the children of coffee farmers, and an initiative to provide farming families with cows, to give them a source of dairy and nutrients, as well as the potential for a second income stream.
We hope that anyone who visits a Market Lane shop or our website knows how important our producer relationships are to us. Nowhere is this truer than in Rwanda. Jenni travels there every year to visit the washing stations and learn about the recent developments and improvements made – and, of course, to taste coffees and select the very best ones to bring to Australia. It was so special to host an intimate evening, where people who have been enjoying Buf’s output and reading our little postcards about them for years could hear all about it from Sam himself. We’re so grateful to Sam for his enthusiasm and sparkling on-stage presence, and his generosity in answering the many questions attendees had for him.
While in Melbourne, Sam also did an interview with The Saturday Paper, which beautifully captures the essence of who he is, his passion for Rwandan coffee production, and his love and pride for his mum. You can read it here.