New Coffee Release: RWANDA GISHEKE
In Rwanda, coffee is more than just a crop. For the people who produce it, coffee is a representation of resilience and growth for their nation.
Region - Nyamasheke
Washing Station - Gisheke
Altitude – 1650-1850 masl
Variety – Red Bourbon
Process – Washed
Rwanda has had a problematic history, and their relationship with coffee production is no exception. Coffee trees were first introduced and cultivated in Rwanda in the 1930s by the Belgian colonial government. They forced people to grow coffee and due to heavy taxation and strict export mandates, the people of Rwanda had no other option. By the time Rwanda gained independence from Belgium in the 1960s, coffee was despised as a representation of oppression. Despite this, Rwandans began to take agency over their own coffee production, changing its bitter past into something more vibrant and now offering hope.
Coffee has become a major boon for Rwanda and its economy. Rwandan farmers have shifted away from the more commercial production of coffee and have focused heavily on producing high-quality specialty coffee. This has not only elevated the coffee, but the livelihoods and dignity of the people who produce it.
Rwandans now believe that working in coffee means that they can live a good life. It offers a community of people working towards the same goal - elevating a nation together and growing a crop that their country can be proud of.
Even though Rwanda may be small, only producing 0.2% of the global coffee supply, it has been consistently producing high-quality coffees with unique characteristics. Coffee from the northern provinces of Rwanda typically have bright and floral characteristics, while more deeply sweet and candy flavors can be found in the Southern and Western provinces. There is an immense amount of variety, which is especially exciting coming from a county roughly the size of Maryland.
Last year, we were incredibly fortunate to spend a week with Kenny and Julia of Higa Coffee, a small-team coffee exporter based in Rwanda. While we were together, they shared their mission: to work towards higher incomes for Rwandan coffee producers and creating relationships between roasters and producers. We are now very happy to share with you our first offering from our friends Higa Coffee, Rwanda Gisheke.
Gisheke, the name of the Washing Station where this coffee was processed and is a forerunner for coffee production in Rwanda. Gisheke is in western Rwanda along the shore of Lake Kivu, one of the Great Lakes of Africa. This lake is split between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kenny credits this washing station to doing some of the first experimental processing in the country and says they are continually improving year by year. 628 smallholder farmers come to Gisheke to deliver their coffee cherries. They come from the immediate community around Gisheke, but some also cross portions of Lake Kivu to deliver cherries form Idjwi Island and Mushungwe Island. The station itself is a hidden gem. The only way to it is by boat on Lake Kivu. As your boat approaches, you are likely to be greeted by swimming cows as they traverse their way to their next meal.
This coffee, like all coffees from Rwanda, is an experience. An experience of taste: sweet and tart notes of watermelon candy, candied dates, persimmon, and rich, buttery peanut brittle; but also, an experience of knowing the importance of this coffee to those who produced it and for the country of Rwanda. Here’s to coffee and the brighter future it provides.