Coffee & Farm Information
Our current decaf is an East Africa blend of Kenyan and Rwandan coffees. Decaffeinated using the CO2 method this coffee will give you notes of raw honey and peach with a nice smooth finish.
Kenya Gicherori AB
This coffee was produced by around 1,200 smallholder farmers delivering to the Gicherori washing station, located in Embu county on the slopes of Mount Kenya at some 1,750 metres above sea level. The members of the KibuguFarmer’s Cooperative who deliver to this washing station (one of the five the society operates, including Kathakwa, Ndunduri, Gikirima and Ngerwe) live nearby – usually within a mile or two. The factory was started in 1997 to relieve Kathakwa and Ndunduri factories, which were at capacity.
Farm sizes in the region are very small – averaging only 200 trees (that’s about one tenth of a hectare) – and so families also grow food crops such as maize, bananas and beans for their own consumption, as well as other cash crops such as tea. The coffee trees are a mixture of SL28 and Ruiru 11, which grow in the shade of Gravellea and Macadamia trees.
Ruiru 11 is named for the station at Ruiru, Kenya where it was developed in the ’70s and released in 1986. Batian (developed in 2011) is named after the highest peak on Mt. Kenya. These two varietals are slowly becoming more widespread in the region due to their resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Coffee Leaf Rust and have both been backcrossed with SL28 and SL34 to ensure high cup quality.
The affiliate members of the factory carry out all agronomic activities associated with coffee production and receive guidance from our partners, CMS. Fieldwork carried out involves weeding, pruning, spraying, and application of fertilizer, mulching and technical advice. Technical advice is offered through farmer training programs and field visits/days offered by the ministry of agriculture.
Compliance to the agreed guidelines is checked and supervised by the field committee which goes round the farms. They usually check that coffee is not inter-grown with other crops such as maize and beans, though they do allow intercropping with Macadamia. They also encourage farmers who have abandoned their coffee bushes to return to farming coffee.
The main harvest at Gicherori runs from October to January. Farmers selectively handpick the ripest, reddest cherries, which are then either delivered directly to the cooperative’s wet mill or received at one of 4 collection points and then ferried over on the same day. Cherries are stringently hand sorted prior to pulping, with damaged and under-ripe cherries being separated out from the red, ripe lots (the process is overseen by the ‘cherry clerks’ who are specifically
tasked with overseeing and keeping records for payments). The factory uses disc pulper with three sets of discs to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that is protecting the green coffee bean. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight to break down the sugars, before being washed through washing channels (which separate for density), soaked and spread out on raised drying tables. The coffee is then dried for between 7 to 15 days, depending on climate, ambient temperature and volumes under processing. While drying, the parchment is repeatedly moved and sorted to remove any damaged or discoloured beans and is covered during the hottest part of the day to maintain even temperatures. The coffee is then stored and rested in Sisal bags when it reaches 11-13% humidity.
Gicherori has long-term goals to increase coffee production, including training seminars, and access to education and sustainable processes for the farmers they work with. They also maintain a demonstration plot that farmers can visit and reference in relation to their own plots. Farmers that deliver to Gicherori are given advances for school fees and farm inputs, as well as emergency loans if required.
Screen sizing in Kenya
The AA, AB and other grades used to classify lots in Kenya are an indication of screen size only. They are not any indication of cup quality. The AA grade in Kenya is equivalent to screen size 17 or 18 (17/64 or 18/64 of an inch) used at other origins. AA grades often command higher prices at auction though this grade is no indication of cup quality and an AB lot from a better farm may cup better. PB (denoting Peaberry) is the smallest screen size.
Rwanda Buf Remera
This 100% red bourbon coffee was processed at Buf Café’s Remera washing station, at 1,935 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 tocountless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond. Buf is now managed by Epiphanie andher 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 developingher 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 Remera washing station in 2014 there was a total of 674,392kg of cherry delivered throughout the season, approximately 3% 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 around 127 at Remera during peak harvest (May – June/July) and 10 permanent positions. A further 116 people are employed at Nyarusiza during harvest, with 9 permanent positions. (2014 figures) 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.
The level of care that all Buf washing stations take over their processing is impressive. Cherries are hand-picked only when fully ripe and then pulped that same evening using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.
After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12-18 hours) and then graded again using flotation channels that sort the coffee by weight (the heaviest – or A1 – usually being the best). The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours to stabilise moisture content.
As at most washing stations in Rwanda, women do the majority of the hand sorting. This takes place in two stages – on the covered pre-drying tables and on the drying tables. Washed beans are moved from the wet fermentation tanks onto the pre-drying tables, where they are intensively sorted under shade for around six hours. The idea is that greens (unripes) are still visible when the beans are damp, while the roofs over the tables protect the beans from the direct sunlight. Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s extensive drying tables for around 14 days (dependingon the weather), where they are sorted again for defects, turned regularly and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers, ensuring both even drying and the removal of any damaged or ‘funny looking’ beans. After reaching 11%humidity, the coffee is then stored in parchment in Remera’s purpose-built warehouse prior to final dry-milling and hand-sorting at the dry mill in Kigali. Each coffee that arrives is also cupped by the Q-graders of Buf’s exporting partner, Rwashocco.
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 lotthrough 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 4and 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, manyof whom have been Q graders for a decade. These coffee professionals make sure that the very best coffees make their way onto our cupping table!