Region: Kamegeri Sector, Nyamagabe District, Southern Province
Owner: Epiphanie Mukashyaka’s (Buf Café) Nyarusiza washing station servicing 7000 smallhold farmers
Altitude: 1,700-1,900 metres above sea level
Variety: 100% Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully Washed and sun-dried on African raised beds.
Awards: Cup of Excellence 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Floral and complex with crisp red apple acidity and notes of candied orange, dark chocolate, and black tea.
About Nyarusiza Special Reserve (with thanks to Melbourne Coffee Merchants):
This extremely special 5 bag micro-lot is a small experimental lot produced by Sam Muhirwa, who is one of the owners of Buf Coffee. Sam is extremely passionate about quality, and is curious, open, and committed to finding new and creative ways to produce exceptional coffee. This coffee is again an example of Buf Cafe’s commitment to progression, innovation and quality.
ABOUT NYARUSIZA WASHING STATION
This 100% Red Bourbon coffee was processed at Nyarusiza washing station which is located at approximately 1,743 meters above sea level in the District of Nyamagabe, in Rwanda’s Kamegeri sector. Farmers contributing to the Nyarusiza washing station own farms that are on average 1,800–2,000 metres above sea level.
Edouine Mugisha has overseen the washing station’s operations since 2011. With the support and help of an incredible woman called Angelique Muhawenimana (who oversees quality control at both of Buf Coffee’s two washing stations) she works closely with the farmers who drop off their cherries and the coffee sorters to ensure that the coffee is harvested and processed with care and that production standards are kept at the highest possible level. In 2016, 60–80 seasonal workers were employed during the harvest, with eight permanent workers employed year-round. At the end of each season, Buf Coffee shares any surplus profits with the producers with whom it works, as well as the washing station managers.
ABOUT BUF COFFEE
Buf Coffee was founded in 2000 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond. Buf is now managed by Mukashyaka—known to all as Epiphanie—and her sons, Samuel and Aloys, who have taken an active role in running and expanding the business. The name ‘Buf’ derives from ‘Bufundu’, the former name of the region in which its washing stations are located.
Epiphanie lost her husband, a child, and many extended family members in the horrific genocide in 1994. She was faced with the responsibility of caring for her seven surviving children and rebuilding their life. With a limited education and little money or support, Epiphanie, whose husband was a coffee farmer, decided to focus on coffee, and set about rebuilding and developing a business, and with it the local community. She started to learn more about speciality coffee with the assistance of the USAID-financed Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL) project, a transformational programme aimed at switching the focus of the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality—and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, Sustaining Partnerships to enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development (SPREAD), have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers rebuild their production in the wake of the genocide, and the world coffee crash, of the 1990s.
Epiphanie went on to establish Buf Coffee, and decided to build a washing station, with the help of the PEARL programme and a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank. ‘I came up with the idea to build this,’ she says, ‘and nothing was going to stop me’. She established Remera Washing Station in 2003 and Nyarusiza in 2005, and was the first woman in Rwanda to hold a privately owned company and produce specialty coffee. Her aim with the washing stations was to improve the quality of coffee by shifting the focus from producing commercial coffee to producing high quality specialty coffee. In doing so, she aimed to add value to her processed coffee in order to secure higher and more stable prices for coffee farmers in the region. As a result, she not only improved the livelihood of her family, but also improved those of her neighbour farmers and wider community, directly by increasing their income (through higher prices paid for their cherry) and, indirectly, by bringing important services like safe water and electricity to their villages via the establishment of washing stations.
Today Buf Coffee buys coffee cherries from as many as 7,000 smallholder farmers, including five different local cooperatives. Buf has very strong links with the local communities that supply it, providing jobs for hundreds of locals during peak harvest (May–June/July) and ten permanent positions year-round.
The majority of the small farmers that supply Buf Coffee in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees each (less than a quarter of a hectare), and also use their land to cultivate crops like maize and beans to feed themselves and their families. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to send their children to school, pay for medical care, and for investment in livestock such as purchasing a cow for milk, which is then used at home and for sale locally.
Buf Coffee’s exceptional quality has been recognised year after year. It was awarded a prize in the 2007 Golden Cup; and placed in the Cup of Excellence in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.
HOW THE NYARUSIZA SPECIAL RESERVE IS PROCESSED
- The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station—on foot, by bike, and by trucks that pick up cherries from various pick-up points in the area.
- Before being pulped, the cherries are deposited into flotation tanks, where a net is used to skim off the floaters (less dense, lower grade cherries). The heavier cherries are then pulped the same day using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.
- The beans (in parchment) are then dry fermented in special, very small plastic containers for 10–12 hours. Usually, coffees are fermented in large tanks. Putting them into plastic containers speeds up the fermentation process and allows for smaller micro-lots to be processed. Sam and his team are still assessing the impact of this style of processing on the resulting cup profile and whether it adds to the longevity/quality of the coffee.
- The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours, before being moved to pre-drying beds where they are intensively sorted for around six hours. This step is always done whilst the beans are still damp because the green (unripe) beans are easier to see. It is also always done in the shade to protect the beans from direct sunlight (which they have found helps to keep the parchment intact and therefore protects the bean better).
- The sorted beans are finally moved onto African drying beds in the direct sun to dry slowly over 10–20 days. During this time the coffee is sorted carefully for defects, and turned regularly to ensure the coffee dried evenly. It is also covered in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.
- Once at 11–12% humidity, the coffee (still in its parchment) is stored in the washing station’s warehouse, in carefully labelled lots, until it is ready for export. The coffee is then sent to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to be dry-milled. Here the parchment is removed, and the beans are sorted again by hand and using machinery to remove any physical defects and loaded into a sealed shipping container, driven to port, and shipped to us!