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Our Head of coffee
“The flavours in this cup of coffee remind me of intense blackcurrant compote, with blackcurrant flavour and super sweet cane sugar sweetness. In fact, it’s so rich and sweet that the bright citrus acidity drops into the background. The coating body and stem ginger aftertaste really round off this coffee perfectly.”
Kamegeli is a district in Southern Province, Rwanda. Coffee is grown by families in their gardens on the many hills; they tend to have very small patches of land, planted out with just a hundred coffee trees or so. It is rare that farmers use chemical fertiliser and access to pesticides is minimal. Coffee cherry is taken to a local village - often by bicycle taxi - where it is bought by representatives from local washing stations. They must build strong relationships with farmers in the area, as well as pay competitive pricing, and it is a tough job to ensure that only the best coffee is purchased at this point. The coffee is then driven to the local washing station where traceability to each region is maintained across the many stages of processing carried out.
The Nyarusiza washing station was built by BUFCoffee in 2005 and was the second washing station opened by Epiphanie. Following successful operation and export of coffee from Remera washing station, Epiphanie recognised that by reducing the number of people in the supply chain between the farmer and exporter, she could increase the amount of money paid to coffee growers - much like Stephen’s realisation when he opened Pact coffee a decade later.
Having only had six years of education and bringing up a family of seven children on her own, with a little help from USAID, Epiphanie became the first woman to own a coffee washing station in Rwanda, going on to win Africa’s most Influential Women in business and government award. Epiphanie has inspired countless women across Rwanda to become more involved in the coffee industry; inspired by their mother, two of Epiphanie’s daughters now own their own export businesses whilst another has recently become supervisor at the family’s new washing station.
Epiphanie’s son Sam has now taken over day-to-day management of the business, which is currently expanding into other provinces of Rwanda. This means Epiphanie now concentrates on working with coffee producers on quality and production quantity improvements, which are delivering coffee cherry to the Remera and Nyarusiza washing stations close to her home. Epiphanie revealed that she enjoys phoning the washing stations each morning after her prayers to check on the nights coffee deliveries and make sure that everything is running smoothly with processing.
The washing station has recently had a large multi-level, shaded drying room added to its infrastructure, increasing capacity of an area of land for drying by five times and creating more space for slower drying times and higher cup quality.
Once the coffee cherries arrive at the washing station, they are immediately put out on raised mesh beds where they are individually inspected to check they are perfectly ripe and free from blemishes or insect bites, which can cause issues in the final cup of coffee.
The coffee cherries are then added to a large flotation tank; less dense cherries float to the surface and are removed. These will be used for C-class coffee once the rest of the coffee has been processed. The coffee then flows into a Kenyan built four-block de-pulper, where the coffee cherry is removed, leaving the green bean and mucilage stuck together. A slow-flowing channel of water is used to move this coffee to fermentation tanks. En route, lighter, less dense beans are washed into a separate tank for processing with the C-class coffee. The beans are drained of water and allowed to begin natural fermentation (think sourdough starter style), which lasts for 12 hours, in the shade so the rising sun does not overheat the beans.
Following their fermentation, the beans are rinsed and once again moved through slow-moving water channels to soaking baths. They’ll sit here in fresh water until space is created on the sorting beds - water is changed every eight hours to prevent further fermentation taking place. Whilst still wet, the green coffee is placed on plastic mesh beds under shade and is sorted through, once again, for beans that are off colour or that have machine or insect damage.
Once sorted, the cherries are put out to begin drying on beds on the side of the mountain. The beans are covered with black netting during the hot midday sun to prevent drying happening too fast, with an aim to dry the coffee to a humidity level of 12% in a time of 14 days.
|PRODUCER||The Kamegeli Cooperative|
|TASTING NOTE||Blackcurrant and stem ginger|