We’re proud to share a special micro lot with you this week – it comes from Rwanda, produced by members of the Koakaka Cooperative at the edge of the Nyungwe rainforest. The photo below shows Murekatete Joie Loire, who is the cooperative’s Head Agronomist.
Head Agronomist Murekatete Joie Loire
Koakaka are members of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, and we’re donating $1 for every Brew Crew bag delivered this week. If you’d like to join us, you can read more about their work and donate directly through Network For Good.
Women of Karambi
Recently, the women of Koakaka’s Karambi washing station banded together to create an association, and made the decision to seperate their coffee and market it as their own.
As members of the cooperative, the members are guaranteed a minimum price for their coffee cherries, and are paid a good price to ensure the very best quality cherries are delivered. They also receive a bonus connected to the quality and prices paid for the lots of coffee.
Karambi washing station
By separating their coffees out, the women of the association are able to directly benefit from any higher prices paid specifically for their lots, rather than these profits being shared equally amongst all members.
This creates a very important and effective incentive for them to work to hard as a collective towards achieving the very best quality possible; and we think the results are evident in the cup you’re drinking.
The road to Karambi washing station
In the local Kinyarwanda language, Koakaka stands for the ‘Coffee Growers’ Cooperative of Karaba’. Since 2004 it has been Fairtrade certified, and more recently has UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certifications. They’re also members of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.
The majority of Koakaka’s members are very small-scale producers who typically own less than a quarter of a hectare of land on which they cultivate an average of only 300 trees, alongside other subsistence food crops such as maize and beans.
This coffee was processed using the washed processing method at the Karambi Washing Station, using natural spring water from the surrounding mountains.
Members of the Koakaka Cooperative are trained to only select the very ripest coffee cherries from their trees. During harvest, cherries are delivered daily to the Karambi Washing Station by foot, bicycle or driven by truck from a local pick-up point (they have 70 pick points in the surrounding area). The women have specific delivery days to the washing station to ensure their lots are processed seperately.
On delivery, the cherries are inspected and sorted to ensure only the very ripest cherries are processed. They are then sorted by weight (and any floaters removed) and pulped on the same day—almost always in the evening—using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades. The majority of this processing happens in the blue-roofed buildings you can see in the photo above.
After pulping the coffee is fermented overnight in tiled tanks (for 12 -18 hours) without water and then graded again using floatation channels that sort the coffee by weight (heaviest usually being the best).
The beans are then soaked in clean water for a further 14 hours, before being moved to raised screens for ‘wet-sorting’ by hand—this is a task almost always carried out by women.
The sorted beans are finally dried in the sun on raised screens (‘African beds’) for two weeks – you can see these in the photo at the top of this page. During this period, the coffee is turned several times a day by hand to ensure the coffee dries evenly and consistently. It is also sorted constantly, with any defects removed.
Once dry, the coffee beans are stored in parchment, in carefully labeled day lots, until they are ready for milling and export. The coffee is then sent to Kigali, from where it is milled, loaded, and shipped.
The waste water treatment plant at Karambi
Since the genocide of 1994, coffee has come to represent a symbol of recovery and regrowth for Rwanda.
Centred around 3 main areas; the Huye mountains, the Nyamagabe region, and the Nyamasheke region in close proximity to Lake Kivu