Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of Bourbon. The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu and in the southern province. Rwandan smallholders organise themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet-mills – or washing stations as they are known locally. Flowering takes place between September and October and the harvest runs from March to July, with shipments starting in August through December.
Gitwe is a washing station located in Nyamasheke district in south western Rwanda, one of the regions with a high concentration of coffee trees and washing stations. At a very high altitude, Gitwe is surrounded by hills covered by green coffee trees, and the volcanic soil off the shores of Lake Kivu, make this coffee some of the finest in the country. There are 800 farmers in total who are delivering their coffee to the station.
When Rwanda Trading Company (RTC) purchased the station in 2017, the plan was to process high-end speciality fully washed coffee, and also look to experiment processing natural coffees at the station.
Cherries delivered to Gitwe are pulped right away using a McKinnon Disc Pulper, fermented for 8-12 hours, and then sun-dried on raised beds for 10-15 days. Once processed, the coffee is then left to rest before being transported to the RTC warehouse in Kigali, where it is milled and prepped ready for shipment.