This special microlot comes to us from the Ruli Sector of Gakenke District, in Rwanda’s rugged and mountainous Northern Province. Produced by 248 female farmers who form part of the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative, they represent a band of women who have demonstrated their capacity to improve quality practices in coffee farming and produce some of the finest beans in the world.
Well-produced Rwandan coffees have distinctive traits - syrupy, richly intense flavours and full-bodied, with much of the profile deriving from the red bourbon varietal and mineral rich soil conditions.
Most of the coffees from this region are fully washed. Once harvested and delivered to the washing station, the coffee cherries are hand-sorted and only the ripest cherries are processed. The coffee is de-pulped and left to ferment overnight for 12-18 hours. They are then graded and sorted by weight before being transferred to a soaking tank for a further 24 hours. This process where the coffee is typically soaked twice is a method common in Africa, and less so in Latin America.
Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s raised drying tables (also known as African beds) for around 2 weeks, where they are turned regularly to ensure even drying and the removal of any damaged or defective beans.
Most of Rwanda's coffee production is grown by over 400,000 smallholder farmers who are organised into cooperatives. The Dekunde Kawa Cooperative is one such collective, and they built their first washing station in Ruli - where this lot of coffee comes from - in 2003.
Recently the women of Ruli made the decision to process and market their coffees as their own, by forming a smaller group within Dekunde Kawa. Many of the founding members were widowed by the devastating 1994 Rwandan Genocide and relied upon each other for farming and financial advice. The group is now open to all of the female members of Dukunde Kawa and has grown to 248 members.
Despite its turbulent history, Rwanda is today, producing some of the best-tasting coffees in the world. More importantly, the story of Ruli's women producers is an example of specialty coffee's positive impact in the community, empowering women towards greater gender equity.