The country of Rwanda is perfectly suited for amazing coffee – it has good coffee varieties with an ideal climate – and it seems that with each year Rwandan coffees are getting more and more of the credit they deserve. The Remera washing station in the south of Rwanda is one one of the most impressive in the country. Remera’s coffee is exactly what we look for in Rwandan coffee: bright, crisp citrus, coupled with fruit notes of cranberry, crisp apple, and stone fruit that go perfectly with the juicy body and clean, sweet aftertaste.
One of the first stories we heard when we first traveled to Rwanda was the story of Epiphanie Mukashyaka, who showed up in the Partnership to Enhance Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL) project offices as a genocide widow wanting to know how she could build a coffee washing station. Through our work in Rwanda in the early to mid 2000s, we got to know Epiphanie well and became one of Bufcafe’s, her company, first customers. In 2006, we invited Epiphanie to visit Counter Culture and join us at the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference that year; that was Epiphanie’s first visit outside Rwanda ever. We will never forget her welcoming dinner, as she was greeted by a bluegrass band and eastern North Carolina BBQ with us in Durham. Since 2006, we have worked off and on with Bufcafe, but have worked more closely the last two years with Samuel Muhirwa – Epiphanie’s son, who now manages the washing stations.
In 2003, Epiphanie Mukashyaka with the help of the PEARL Project was able to build her first washing station called Nyarusiza, under her business, Bufcafe. A few years later Bufcafe built their second washing station, the one from which this lot of coffee comes from, called Remera.
Bufcafe is not a cooperative, however they have taken a much more symbiotic relationship with the thousands of producers that they work with; not just paying fairly, but rewarding with premiums over the market and other incentives to ensure a strong partnership in the communities they work with.
In 2006, Nyamagabe became the district that encompassed much of what used to be called the Gikongogo province. The Remera washing station in this district is one of the highest in the country sitting right at 1,950 meters. Producers in this area mainly grow tea and coffee as a cash crop, and are very very tiny, owning generally just a few hundred coffee trees.
Rwanda as a whole, and the Rwandan coffee scene, is truly something to behold, and there is a reason more times than not coffee professionals, turn to Rwanda as the success story of all success stories. As many people reading this know, Rwanda went through one of the worst human atrocities, in the genocide which occurred in 1994. Not just after the genocide, but really after decades of civil war and violence, Rwanda started rebuilding in the late 1990’s looking towards many industries as the way towards a better future. The tech industry has been a huge place Rwanda has invested, but they also turned to the agricultural industries, and coffee in particular.
Rwanda originally built a few coffee washing stations around the country in mid 1900’s, and a handful of other before the 2000’s, but again due to the ongoing conflict and internal challenges the coffee market didn’t take off like other countries in East Africa. In 2001 though, the PEARL project recognized that there was huge potential and within a decade there are now coffee washing stations all over the entire country. These washing stations were able to take a product that was receiving at or below commodity prices, to a coffee that is often sought after by professionals around the world and in total has more than doubled the prices being paid to some producers.
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 had millions of victims. One of them was Epiphanie Mukashyaka, whose husband was killed in the tragic events of that time. Epiphanie sought to continue her husband’s coffee company, and was one of the first to grasp onto the hope of super high-quality coffee, a business previously unknown in Rwanda. Epiphanie helped found the Bufcafe coffee operation which over time has become one of the greatest coffee producers in Rwanda. Epiphanie’s son, Samuel Muhirwa, now manages the Bufcafe washing stations and dry mill today, and is constantly working to produce the best product.
Variety: Bourbon Types (French Mission, Jackson, Mbirizi, Pop)
Elevation: 1,950 meters
Process: Washed; Dry-fermentation for 12-18 hours, washing, then soaked in clean water for 12-24 hours
Drying: Raised beds. Coffee is protected under shade on raised beds for the first day, then put out in the sun. Once out in the sun it takes about 2 weeks for the coffee to be at the right moisture. (It is of good note that the coffee is also covered in the middle of the day to protect against the sun.) All the care taken in the drying is certainly one of the reasons this coffee tastes great and pristine even after long delays in shipping.
Harvest Time: April 2013 – July 2013