Roaster’s tasting notes:
This is another coffee processed using an experimental processing method. This is a risky process for the washing station as it can go either way. Luckily for us this has worked on this batch to great effect. The producers themselves printed ‘Funky’ on the bag!
The sweetness is the first standout feature for me, toffee, nougat and vanilla all make an appearance. The fruit notes lean towards the darker side such as cherry and plum whilst the mouthfeel is coating extending the delicious joy each mouthful rewards you with.
This 100% red bourbon coffee was processed at Buf Café’s Nyarusiza washing station, at 1,743 metres above sea level in the south of Rwanda.
Buf Café was founded in 2003 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond. Buf is now managed by Epiphanie and her son, Samuel Muhirwa, who is taking an increasingly active role in running and expanding the business. The title ‘Buf’ derives from ‘Bufundu’, the former name of the region in which its washing stations are located.
Epiphanie, who was born in 1959, was widowed during the 1994 genocide – which claimed over 800,000 lives in just 3 months – but chose not to leave her family’s small coffee farm. Instead she set about rebuilding and developing her business and with it the local community. She started Buf Café in 2003, when she established Remera washing station with a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the USAID-financed PEARL project.
This transformational programme was aimed at switching the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality – and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping
Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.
Buf Café now owns three coffee washing stations – Remera, Nyarusiza and Umurage. They are currently building a fourth washing station as well, based on the local need. The company, which was serving less than 500 farmers in 2003, is now procuring coffee cherries from almost 7,000 smallholder farmers in the Southern province of Rwanda, among them 1,069 are registered members. At Buf’s Nyarusiza washing station in 2014 there was a total of 798,685kg of cherry delivered throughout the season, approximately 5% of which was delivered by trees owned by Epiphane and her family. The remaining quantity of delivered cherry comes from farmers within the community surrounding the washing station.
Buf has very strong links with the local communities that supply it, providing jobs for 116 at Nyarusiza during peak harvest (May – June/July) and 9 permanent positions. A further 127 people are employed at Remera
during harvest, with 10 permanent positions. At the end of each season Buf will share any surplus profits with both the cooperatives that it works with and its washing station managers. The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees (less than a quarter of a hectare) and use some of their land to cultivate other crops such as maize and beans to feed themselves and their families. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to take their children to school, pay for medical care and for investment in livestock such as a cow for milk, both for use in the home and for sale locally.
Each producer selling their cherries to the Nyarusiza Washing Station, carefully handpick the cherries once ripe. Upon delivery to the Washing Station, the cherries are spread evenly on raised tables to be sorted for
quality purposes. After sorting, the cherries are covered by shade nets and submerged in water – 20L of water per 200kgs of cherry. Testing occurs regularly to ensure overfermentation does not occur. The coffee
remains here for 94 hours to attain the ideal fermentation level. The fermented cherries are then moved to a mesh bed to initiate drying in the open sun until it reaches a humidity level of 10-11%. Once completely dried, the coffee is hulled at Kamonyi Dry Mill no more than 30 days later.
Lots are first separated by collection point (farmers usually hail from around 3 km distance from each collection point) and are also separated out by days. Upon delivery as cherry, the coffee receives a paper ‘ticket’ that follows the lot through all its processing. This ticket bears the date of harvest, the collection
point name, and the grade (A1, A2 etc) of the coffee – for instance, if a coffee lot is called ‘Lot 1- 06/04 – A1’, this means it was the first lot processed on April 4 and the grade is A1. This simple but effective practice is a crucial tool in controlling quality and ensuring the traceability of lots.
Once in Kigali, each lot is cupped by the expert team of cuppers at Rwashocco, Mercanta’s exporting partner, many of whom have been Q graders for a decade. These coffee professionals make sure that the very best coffees make their way onto Mercanta’s cupping table!