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.
Located on the slopes of Huye Mountain in the Huye District in Southern Rwanda, this private washing station is owned by David Rubanzangabo. David is something of a philanthropist, and cares deeply about the smallholder farmers who deliver their coffee to his station. Since it was established in 2011, Huye receives cherry deliveries from around 1,330 producers during harvest season, who deliver their freshly picked coffee cherries to 26 collecting stations around the Huye community, where a truck visits daily to collect coffee during harvest season. Typically, a small holding in the district is just a quarter of a hectare in size, with around 200 trees. The yield is about 4kg of cherry per tree, so each farm only produces roughly 2 bags of coffee. It is entirely bourbon, which, coupled with an altitude ranging from 1,600 to 2,300 metres above sea level, brings about lots of complexity and great flavours in the cup.
His drive for quality has brought about a big increase in prices for local farmers. To encourage consistency of quality, David awards members whose coffees carry the highest cupping scores with the prize of a cow (40 members each won one) or a goat (60 winners last year). A cow makes a huge difference to the lives of a family since it will provide milk for around 6 years and a constant supply of organic fertilizer for the coffee trees.