This Fully washed, 100% Bourbon coffee is an exceptional choice for a single origin coffee. Nyaruguru District in Rwanda’s Southern Province is known for its superb growing conditions. Nyakizu Coffee Washing Station (CWS) is also exceptional. The coffee from Nyakizu goes through multiple levels of sorting for quality and is treated with extreme care by the knowledgeable staff at every stage of processing.
Nyakizu Washing Station
The Nyaruguru District, where Nyakizu CWS is situated, shares many of the features that make coffee from the Kayanza Province so memorable. The high altitudes (with farms between 1,750 and 2,100 metres above sea level) and rich soil combined with favourable climate and plentiful rainfall are a recipe for superb coffee. The sandy clay soil lends a higher acidity that other areas of Rwanda, and the rich topsoil with abundant organic matter promotes good harvests.
Harvest and Post-harvest
Farmers delivering to Nyakizu CWS selectively hand pick their harvest, often relying on the help of family members. Once picked, the coffee is brought to the washing station.
The quality team at the station pre-sorts the cherry through flotation and visual sorting for ripeness. Approved cherry is then collected in the cherry hopper until enough cherry is collected to begin the day’s pulping. Once the minimum quantity is received for the day, the pulper will begin pulping, and it will not stop until all the day’s cherry is pulped.
After pulping, the parchment ferments in tanks for around 14 to 18 hours. The fermentation time varies with the season and the ambient temperature. Temperatures are lower at the start of the season, which means it takes more time for fermentation to complete.
After fermentation, coffee is washed in clean water and moved through the grading channel. This separates the parchment into four grades, from the heaviest (which is typically associated with highest quality) to lights and floaters. Throughout the rest of the process, each quality of parchment is kept separate. This lot from Nyakizu consists only of the heaviest parchment. All coffee that receives this quality tag passes through an additional 24-hour soaking period to remove all traces of mucilage before being delivered to sorting sheds. Nyakizu also has four sheds available for performing extra visual checks on higher quality wet parchment. Defective beans can be more easily detected when the parchment is wet.
After sorting, the coffee is moved to the main drying beds where it is regularly sorted and sifted so as to ensure even drying. A gentle humid breeze blows through the valley. This breeze is one of the quality ingredients of Nyakizu coffee. Drying the parchment can take up to 35 days!
Nyakizu stores dry parchment in their own storage room until they sell it to their partners. In this case, we purchased the coffee from Rwacof, who purchased directly from Nyakizu. Nyakizu Rwacof oversees the marketing and sale of the coffee and, once sold, prepares the beans for export.
Coffee in Rwanda
Coffee in Rwanda is linked to the country’s tumultuous history. In particular, the last decade of the twentieth century in Rwanda was marred by a horrific genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in fewer than 100 days between April and July 1994. This event all but destroyed the country’s important coffee sector.
The incredible resilience of the Rwandan people is evident in the way that the economy has recovered since then. Due to strong government support, liberal trade rules and international investment, today Rwanda is considered one of the most stable countries in the region. Coffee production has played a key role in this economic growth and stability.
Today, smallholders propel the industry in Rwanda forward. The country doesn’t have any large estates. Most coffee is grown by around 400,000+ smallholders, most of whom own less than a quarter of a hectare. Most of Rwanda’s coffee production is Arabica and is almost entirely Red Bourbon.
About our Partner: Rwacof
The contributions of our Rwandan sister company, Rwacof, cannot be overstated. Rwacof operates 19 of Rwanda’s 300 coffee washing stations. Their investment in the Rwandan coffee sector, however, is more significant than mere bricks and mortar.
Rwacof invests heavily in farmer training and good agricultural practices, primarily through our sustainability partner, the Kahawatu Foundation. Their Farmer Field School shares information with all their producer partners on best agricultural practices, conservation tactics, the importance of picking only ripe cherry and more.
Furthermore, Rwacof places high value on improving the financial situation of farmers with whom they work. Annual bonuses are always distributed once the coffee is sold; however, instead of giving these second payments in cash, Rwacof has negotiated favourable rates with a wide-reaching African bank. Farmers are equipped with zero-fee accounts with no monthly account maintenance fees, no transfer costs and no withdrawal costs. Having bank accounts not only means more secure storage for their money, but it makes farmers bankable and eligible for other credit lines, often for the first time.
Above all, Rwacof ensures the best quality coffee through their exceptional attention to detail during post-harvest activities. From the moment that the coffee cherry enters the washing station until it is milled and bagged for export, Rwacof keeps stringent quality controls in place. They know, as we do, that high quality coffee is crucial for delivering benefit all along the supply chain.