If you would like more than 8 samples, please contact a trader directly.
Two weeks before we arrived for our visit to Rwanda ahead of our 2023 import, the Agriculture Ministry suspended its 2016 regulation requiring that coffee growers sell cherry to collectors within their designated zone. The change, which allows farmers to sell their cherry anywhere in the country without restrictions, coupled with a March regulation from the National Agricultural Export Development Board requiring that cherry be sold at a fixed price of RWF 410 per kilo rather than above a minimum price, aligns with government strategic plans to enhance quality, increase production, and improve collaboration between farmers and exporters—all in the interest of growing coffee exports.
The zoning change arrived too late for most of the country’s growers, who had completed harvest earlier this year due to April rains—but in Kinini Village, the elevation and unique microclimate at the edge of the Albertine Rift, peak harvest had just begun.
Kinini is, in many ways, an outlier; quality from the village is higher than other parts of Rwanda, harvest is reliably later, and in a year when competition for cherry is increased due to lower production nationally and the change in zoning rules, Kinini’s production remained strong. The unusual relationship between Kinini and its surrounding community—one where Kinini provided seedlings and three years of pay to develop the local coffee industry in exchange for an agreement to sell cherry to Kinini once production began—results not only in mutual investment in quality but also stability. Where others face stiff competition for cherry, Kinini continues to receive cherry from the cooperatives surrounding the washing station.
In 2022, during our first visit to Kinini since before the pandemic, we took the opportunity to dive deeper into the operations of Kinini, calibrate with their quality lab and meet cooperative groups who sell cherry to the Kinini washing station. During our time with Jackie, Malcolm and Kinini, we worked together to identify areas where Crop to Cup could continue to support Kinini—and talked about where Kinini hoped to make improvements. Some of those improvements—like sealing and waterproofing their warehouse and adding humidity monitoring; and changing from rainwater to mountain water for washing their coffee—were implemented ahead of our next visit in 2023. Others—like deeper collaboration and support of the cooperatives and exploration of lot separation by cooperative—were efforts we targeted for the 2023 harvest and beyond.
The long term goal shared by Kinini and Crop to Cup is to market separations of coffee from individual groups of producers, such as the six cooperatives of women farmers we met during our visit in 2022. In order to meet this goal in a country that does not currently have a practice or system for this type of separation, we began by separating just four of the groups for the purpose of training staff to handle, sort, tag, store and cup each separation. While these separations are not marketed separately—the purpose of this exercise was to develop competencies and systems to enable more target separations by cooperatives in future harvests.
Additionally, we expanded the number of harvest period samplings from three (early-peak, peak, and late-peak harvest) to thirty; this created what were essentially day lots, enabling the quality lab at Kinini to evaluate collections individually and aggregate the best into a quality-focused blend for Crop to Cup—as well as affording Kinini the ability to discover where quality is occurring, observe the practices of that cooperative, and replicate it elsewhere. As part of our visit, we calibrated with the quality lab and spent time with Kinini’s roasting staff, providing support and instruction for optimizing the sample roasts they achieved with their Arc S sample roaster, bolstering the team’s ability to differentiate lots and identify separations of the highest qualities.
To focus more directly on agronomic improvements, Kinini is promoting two projects: vermicomposting and home planting. While the trees around the station produce high-quality coffee, yields are low. Rather than focusing on additional plantings alone in an effort to increase production and income for farmers, Kinini hopes that by planting coffee closer to where growers live, the attention given to those trees in the form of pruning and agronomic management will improve their yields; this program stems from the observation that those farmers with trees near their houses—and those trees mulched with compost and coffee husk, such as those nearest to the washing station—have greater productivity.
For 2023, Kinini implemented cherry flotation at all collection sites in addition to the wet mill, resulting in more uniform collections and higher quality. They successfully paid off their final bank loan—part of their 2022 goals—freeing cashflow for other work.
Internally, Kinini made investments in staff, hiring a new cupper, elevating a new quality manager, promoting pickers into field workers, bringing former union cherry collectors on staff to collect cherry for Kinini, and contracting an agronomist, as well as organizing casual laborers—100% of whom are women—into a cooperative. Collectively, this restructuring will: ensure that Kinini has the workforce it needs; protect the most vulnerable members of the labor force through organization; and provide farmers with support.
We anticipate that our 2023 import from Kinini will be smaller than previous years, will include both washed and natural processed lots, and will be priced slightly higher than last year.
During our visit, we drew samples from the warehouse and beds to cup in our quality lab in Brooklyn. Qualities of those samples were excellent—and with the moisture meter and water activity meters Crop to Cup provided, we expect that quality will hold up through shipping and arrival later this year.
>> Kinini Village Cooperative 2023 Washed
Cantaloupe, caramel, sparkling cola, brown sugar, chocolate fudge, lemon, vanilla, pluot, lime
Our work in Rwanda also includes yearly purchasing from Nova, a woman-led and woman farmer focused exporter established on the notion of commercialization of coffee as a mechanism to create economic opportunity and foster social improvements. For 2023, besides building out a cupping lab, Nova established a coffee school and are in the process of adding a playground for the children of the women who work at the washing station.
While there are three different cooperatives that deliver their cherries to the Nova Washing Station, we focus on coffees grown by the 80-member women’s group called Dukorere Kawa Bukure Women’s Cooperative. We target peak harvest collections and cup through intensive lot separation to choose the best natural process coffees over the course of the entire harvest season.
Qualities of naturals from Dukorere Kawa Bukere were down this year, but an anaerobic lot from Nova jumped off the table during our cupping at NAEB in Kigali. We anticipate our purchasing from Nova will be smaller; roasters interested in contracting coffee from this community should reach out to their trader.
>> Nova Lot 1 2023 Anaerobic
Black cherry, rose, jackfruit, lemon verbena, rhubarb, lingonberry
If you would like more than 8 samples, please contact a trader directly.