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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.

A women’s cooperative within Kinini Village cooperative


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

Crop to Cup is actively booking in Rwanda. We anticipate volumes will be small for 2023 from these partners; If you have interest in coffee from Kinini or Nova, please reach out to your trader.

Kinini processing naturals

Peak Harvest, Peak Quality


Where we primarily work in Rwanda, the high elevation mountains of the northern province, the harvest happens late compared to the western and southern provinces. Instead of compensating for this timeline by chasing early harvest volume, we wait for peak harvest samples which pushes our sample approvals & shipments to later in the year but focuses our energy on drilling down to the harvest’s best qualities. This strategy is not just ours, but shared by our partners at Kinini & Nova Coffee, who want their very best qualities differentiated and supported by roasters. Thankfully this strategy was a success this harvest and qualities are hitting their marks with big fruity naturals and incredibly chocolatey, sweet and balanced washed coffees. Volumes of this quality are slightly up over last year, but barely- as we prioritized quality over volume.

The big update for this harvest is a record hike in costs and prices for coffee producers. Both are due to government intervention. The coffee industry in Rwanda is regulated by NAEB (National Agricultural Export Development Board). This year they tripled the tax on coffee that they charge all producers per kilo (rising cost), and also increased the mandatory cherry price for the whole country by 65% (rising prices). This mandatory cherry price is often seen as a govt. “minimum” to washing station managers, and on-the-ground realities of competition are driving prices more than 200% above last year’s cherry prices. While this means prices are up for Rwandan coffee this year on the open market, our long term partnerships have allowed us to keep our prices relatively stable year over year, through these shocks, while continuing to meet their financial goals.

2022 Timing

Peak Harvest Lot Selection On the Water Shipments / Arrivals




Producer Partner Highlights


We started working with Kinini in 2017 just as they were starting to have something close to an exportable volume of coffee, and we remain the sole importer of Kinini’s coffee in the U.S to this day. As in previous harvests, for 2022, Crop to Cup bought both washed and natural process coffees from Kinini village, the area immediately around the washing station itself. This year, we decided to pass on Kinini Village’s early crop as they had another international buyer interested in the fastest possible container. Instead we focused on peak harvest, calibrating with Kinini’s QC lab throughout. Once we reached a container of fully washed top quality coffee, we approved that to ship as quickly as possible and did a 100% washing station take-over to process a lot of naturals all at once- taking advantage of the changing weather conditions to prolong drying in cherry to help the naturals really shine.

While we grow every year with Kinini as partners, the international demand for their coffee has grown as well, leading to financial security for the group, allowing them to pay off almost all of their start-up loans, and enabling reinvestment in quality operations and training. This year, ahead of the harvest, we worked with Jacquie and Malcolm to pre-contract the volumes and differentiated processes of coffee we needed while calibrating between our lab and Kinini’s QC lab through the season, using their Arc S sample roaster. Here are a few more updates:


  • Currently transitional organic, expecting to be fully organic for the 2023 harvest
  • Patrick, who was hired last year as roaster/cupper (in addition to his other contributions), calibrated with our QC lab and continued the open-door tastings with farmers that began last year to help assess quality and define parameters for separation and aggregation of coffee. These sessions also include tasting flavors found in coffee such as chocolate (which was a first for many farmers) and acidity using local reference fruits such as banana and tree tomatoes. They are also using raw potato as a sensory experience to be able to better understand potato defect.
  • Floating cherries at the cherry collection sites themselves, not just at the washing station, ensuring better incentives for better picking.
  • Continued use and distribution of red wristbands to pickers to guide cherry selection
  • New bonus structure. They raised the bonus payment to 15% per kilo for all farmers no matter what, and an additional 5% per kilo for good quality producers. For context they moved from a volume-based incentive of 5% per kilo in 2019 that only the biggest farmers qualified for, to a flat bonus of 10% per kilo across the board to all farmers in 2020. Every year is an opportunity to try and incentivize and support in the right way.
  • The vermiculture project is now thriving—allowing for soil amendment using organic methods and reducing reliance on expensive inputs from elsewhere. Vermiculture projects have grown and expanded to individual farm level.
  • Growing 30,000 seedlings at 3 different seedlings nurseries in an attempt to double volume by 2023. Instead of buying seedlings, they are developing their own seedlings selected from the most productive and healthy plants from each of the 3 areas. Each nursery will only supply their surrounding areas since the trees will be ones that have proven to be the most healthy and productive in that particular micro-climate.
  • In July, in pursuit of financial independence, paid off one of the two large bank loans they received instead of immediately building a dry mill (bank rates in Rwanda are an average of 16% interest). The second loan should be paid off next year, meaning that Kinini will be debt-free.
  • Reinvested by building staff quarters to improve ability to manage and host visitors and buyers
  • Continue to send 10% of all Kinini profits to charity.

Nova Coffee

We started working with Agnes and Nova Coffee in 2017 , and continue to be their sole importer into the US to this day. While we don’t try and exclusively buy natural process coffees from Nova, it does seem to be what shines the best every harvest. 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. We calibrate with their partner cuppers in Kigali and lot-plan together throughout the harvest, putting the very best lots together to make up the Dukorere Kawa Bukere lot, which always packs a fun fruity punch.  


  • Certified organic for 2022
  • Over 700 Nova farmers are currently in an organic composting training program
  • As part of the 2020 govt. supported community healthcare initiative called “Mutuelle de Santé” through Babylon Health, a % of Nova’s Profits from 2020 paid for health insurance for the 100 poorest farmers in their community
  • Expanded plantings with seedlings coming from NAEB (National Agriculture Development Board)
  • Assisted in organizing a 2nd women’s farmer group in the area  


Rwandan lot selections are complete and slated to arrive beginning in November and we are actively booking lots. Keep an eye on our Forward Offers for arrival updates! If you’d like to learn more, or reserve a lot SAS NANS, get in touch with a trader to discuss availability and anticipated qualities/profiles.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team