Region: Nyamagabe District, Southern Province
Owner: Epiphanie Mukashyaka’s (Buf Café) Nyarusiza washing station servicing 7000 smallhold farmers
Altitude: 1,800-2,000 metres above sea level
Variety: 100% Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully Washed and sun-dried on African raised beds.
This 100% Red Bourbon coffee was processed at Buf Café’s Nyarusiza washing station. Located at approximately 1,800 meters above sea level, Nyarusiza processes coffee farmed locally at altitudes themselves approaching 2,000 meters above sea level.
Edwin (the longtime manager of Nyarusiza) ably assisted and supported by the inspirational Angelique (responsible for quality control at both of Buf’s washing stations); work closely with both the farmers – who drop off their cherries – and the coffee sorters (who are mostly women) to ensure that the coffee is harvested and processed with care.
About Buf Café
Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic and impressive businesswoman, founded Buf Café (Buf derives it’s name from ‘Bufundu’ – the region’s former name) in 2003. She has long been a source of inspiration to countless female entrepreneurs, both to those within and those beyond Rwanda’s coffee industry. Presently Buf is managed by Epiphanie and her sons Samuel and Aloys; her sons taking an increasingly active role in running the ever expanding business.
Epiphanie was widowed in the 1994 genocide that claimed over 800,000 lives; however rather than leaving her family’s small coffee farm, she made the courageous decision to rebuild and grow the business; and with it, the local community as well. Buf Café was started in 2003 with the construction of her first washing station (Remera); an impressive feat and one that she was able to do because of a loan secured from the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the USAID backed PEARL project..
PEARL (the Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages) was crucial in helping shift the focus from poor quality, commodity coffee, towards a high quality specialty product – something that has drastically improved the lives of those involved in growing and processing coffee in Rwanda.
Buf Café has grown to the point where it now owns two coffee washing stations – Nyarusiza (where this lot is from) and Remera – this is in addition to it’s own coffee trees – it currently buys coffee cherries from as many as 7,000 surrounding smallholder farmers, including five different local cooperatives.
Buf Café plays a key role in the local community – employing some 20 people on a permanent basis and several hundred during the peak harvest time. Buf also shares any profits with the local co-operatives/farmers it works with, as well as the washing station managers.
The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees each (grown on around an acre of land), they also cultivate crops like maize and beans to feed themselves and their families.
Processing at Nyarusiza:
- Perfectly ripe cherries are hand-picked and then delivered to the washing station – on foot, by bike, or by trucks that pick up cherries from various collection points in the area.
- Prior to being pulped, the cherries are placed into floatation tanks, where a net is used to remove 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 a tank with no added water) overnight for 8 – 12 hours. Following this, they are sorted again using grading channels. This process sends water through the channels and the lighter (i.e. lower grade) beans are washed to the bottom, while the heavier cherries remain at the top of the channel.
- The wet parchment is then soaked in water for the next 24 hours, after which it is moved to pre-drying beds where it is 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 spot. It is also always done in the shade, which protects the beans from the sunlight – something that helps to keep the parchment intact and therefore protect the bean better.
- Finally, the sorted beans are moved onto African beds – directly in the sun – where they dry slowly over 10 – 20 days. During this time the coffee is (yet again) hand-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 they are at 12% humidity, the coffee (still in its parchment) is stored in the washing station’s warehouse, in carefully labeled lots, until it is ready for export. From there it is transported to Kigali (Rwanda’s capital), where it is dry milled to remove the parchment; where it is hand-sorted one last time to remove any physical defects. Finally it is bagged into 60kg portions, packed into a container and shipped to us!