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.