By Chris Kornman and Charlie Habegger.
There’s something very reassuring about landed coffees in season. Last year’s shipments from Rwanda didn’t arrive until late spring of 2022, fully a year after their harvest. This year, the story is different. Of our Oakland-bound coffees from the recent harvest, we’ve already landed two containers, with a third ETA in early February. This is an unequivocal victory in light of the abysmal international shipping and logistics outlook of previous seasons. It’s especially refreshing as these coffees not only taste incredibly vibrant (and will for a long time), they also get the opportunity to shine without being crowded out by recently landed Centrals, Ethiopias, and Kenyas, which tend to steal the show in the summer months. We’re really proud to work with a very diverse group of Rwandan coffee producers, and excited to share them with you. Let’s get to know the coffees a little.
Royal Coffee’s longest term supply partner is one of just a handful of operative coffee coops in the country. Dukunde Kawa is a well-known producer group in Rwanda, as much for exceptionally bright and memorable coffees as for its exceptional business structure: the cooperative carries multiple certifications for its various washing stations including Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ, and more than 80% of its workforce is women. Not only that but the organization is located in the Northern province, which, despite its proximity to Kigali, tends to be little-known in specialty coffee compared to the west and south.
Since first organizing in 2000 with a single wet mill, years before the majority of washing stations in Rwanda even existed, Dukunde Kawa has received sustainability awards from the SCA as well as placing in the top positions in Rwanda’s Cup of Excellence competition. Today the cooperative has over 2,000 farmer members and 4 washing stations in the Gakenke District north of Kigali.
Coffees from the north of Rwanda tend to be clean and lush, and Dukunde Kawa offers some of the best in this regard. We tasted plum, red grape, and semi-sweet chocolate in the most recent lots.
Dukunde Kawa spot 2021 Harvest:
Kivubelt was established in 2011 by Furaha Umwizeye, after returning to Rwanda with a master’s degree in economics from Switzerland. Born and raised in Rwanda, Umwizeye’s goal with Kivubelt is to create a model coffee plantation, as sustainable in agriculture as it is impactful in local employment and empowerment.
The company began with 200 scattered acres of farmland in Gihombo, a community in Rwanda’s coffee-famous Nyamasheke district that runs along the breathtaking central shoreline of Lake Kivu. Under Umwizeye’s leadership, and the guidance of her farm manager Gaspard Nsengimana, Kivu Belt has planted 90,000 coffee trees on their estate, which now employ more than 400 people during harvest months and is a kind of coffee vocational school for local smallholders interested in improving their farming. Kivu Belt has also acquired two washing stations, Murundo and Jarama, which process coffee from the company’s estates as well as that of more than 500 smallholders in the region, offering quality premiums and training programs for participating farming families.
The Nyamasheke district in Rwanda is gifted in terroir. The cool, humid climates of both Lake Kivu and the Nyungwe Forest National Park keep groundwater abundant throughout the uniquely hilly region. Kivu itself is part of the East African Rift whose consistent drift creates volcanic seepage from the lake’s bottom and enriches the surrounding soils. Coffees from this region are often jammier and heavier than in the rest of the country.
Western Rwandan coffees are vibrant and showy, and KivuBelt’s coffees tend to offer an extra layer of cleanliness in their processing. We tasted loads of citrus like mandarin orange, pomegranate, and hibiscus in these lots.
KivuBelt spot 2022 Harvest:
KivuBelt spot 2021 Harvest:
Rwanda Nyamasheke Kivubelt Cyiya – *51553* – 25686
Rwanda Nyamasheke Kivubelt Nyaruzina – *51555* – 25693
Rwanda Nyamasheke Kivubelt Murundo Peoples’ Farms – *51620* – 25692
Rwanda Nyamasheke Kivubelt Cyiya – *51552* – 25685
Rwanda Trading Company
Rwanda Trading Company (RTC), a miller and exporter that began in 2010 managing small shipments of coffee from Kigali, has since grown into one of the best end-to-end value chain operators in the country. RTC works with dozens of washing stations across the country, not only milling and marketing their finished coffee, but also pre-financing harvests, providing farm management curriculums to local teams, helping processors establish their cherry prices, and centralizing quality control, allowing them to break down or combine deliveries to maximize returns to washing stations and coops.
Our 2022 arrival from RTC comes from a single washing station, Horizon, located in the southern Huye district. Horizon was recently acquired by RTC and refurbished, now consistently turning out high qualities of coffee under its new management and processing protocols. Huye receives strong, reliable rains and the coffee potential has always been high. A few talented producer groups here managed to put Huye on the map in the late aughts with some of the first traceable and collaborative relationship coffees the U.S. specialty industry had seen.
Southern Rwandan coffees are amongst the brightest and cleanest in the country. This year’s Inzovu Supreme lot shows classic characteristics of citrus zest, tomato, hops, and bergamot.
RTC spot 2022 Harvest:
Rwanda Inzovu Supreme – 28870
Coocamu Cooperative is Royal Coffee’s newest supply partner, introduced through our friends at Ikawa House, a Rwandan quality evaluation and export organization run by some of the country’s top cuppers.
Coocamu cooperative, which was established in 2010 to help local coffee farmers in the Musasa Sector have access to a closer washing station where they could sell their harvested cherries. The bulk of production comes from small family-owned farms where coffee is cultivated on just a few acres of land intercropped with soybeans.
Located in Rutsiro, in northwestern Rwanda, these coffees pair zippy grapefruit like acidities with honey-sweetness and the depth of ripe cherry flavors.
Interested in booking some Rwanda coffees? Reach out to your trader or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.