Raspberry, hibiscus, honey
Both the cooperative and the wet mill are in the Matyazo sector of the Ngororero district in Rwanda’s Western Province.
Today, the washing station serves 375 farmers whose farms lie within a wide range of altitudes: from 1,100 to 2,200 metres above sea level. The station itself is located at 1,719 metres above sea level.
Due to the wide range of altitudes, the washing station is operating for a longer time than usual during the harvest season. Lower altitude farms deliver their cherry beginning in February. Higher altitude farms begin delivering cherry in April or May.
Due to the wide variety of farms bringing their cherry to the washing station, the station has a strict system for separating and processing different lots.
All lots are separated by purchase date. Each day lot is processed and dried individually and cupped separately to determine its quality. Higher altitude farms contribute to the classic Matyazo profile that is complex, crisp and tea-like with bright acidity and notes of white peach.
Harvest and Post-harvest
The washing station is equipped with a Penagos pulping machine. The cooperative intentionally selected the Penagos pulper because it uses less water. This reduces wastewater production: simultaneously reducing the amount of waste the station needs to deal with and preserving freshwater for other uses.
The pulper has variable settings and can be set to remove varying amounts of mucilage. The station has set the pulper to leave 5-10% of mucilage sticking to the parchment as it enters the fermentation tanks.
Due to the care Matyazo puts into all aspects of the process, the remaining mucilage contributes to the rich, sweet and fruity profile of the coffees coming from this station.
The coffee ferments under water for 12 hours. After fermentation, the parchment is soaked for an additional three hours to make sure all mucilage is removed. Removing all the mucilage helps prevent additional fermentation from taking place while the parchment dries.
After being washed through grading channels, the clean parchment is delivered to dry on one of Matyazo’s 16 raised beds. The parchment is turned every three hours to help the parchment dry evenly and is covered during the hottest time of the day.
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 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.
The contributions of 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 their 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 benefits all along the supply chain.