Rwanda - Rwamatamu
BLACKCURRANT, STEWED RHUBARB
OMNI ROAST (What’s an omni roast?)
REGION | Kibuye, Western Province
PROCESS | Washed
SPECIES | Arabica
VARIETY | Red Bourbon
ALTITUDE | 1600-2000 MASL
Rwamatamu coffee farm and washing station sits atop rich volcanic soil, at 1600 to 2000 metres above sea level, within the Western Province of Rwanda. The estate is located near the picturesque rolling hills that flank Lake Kivu, in a region that provides a tropical highland climate with an average temperature of 14 to 24 degrees celsius, along with regular rainfall. This makes the Arabica trees flourish, producing a dense, hard bean come harvesting season, which runs from January through to March.
As a family run business, Rwamatamu strives to bring a positive social and economic impact to the Western Province, something which is achieved by committing to the regular purchase of beans from local cooperatives and small holders. They also take care to invest in the growth of employees, 80% of whom are women. In fact, Rwamatamu has its very own women produced lots, as they quote women as ‘the backbone of our society’.
Rwamatamu was founded in 2015 by husband and wife Rutaganda Gaston and Mukantwaza Laetitia as they looked for a means to support their family.
Growing up, Gaston and Laeticia’s children all had a hand in the operations of the estate. Their daughter Marie Bernice in particular took to jobs such as translating negotiations, creating educational materials, and managing marketing documents. The family is now lining things up for Bernice to take over operations of the estate as her parents retire.
Bernice and her husband Luke plan to follow in Gaston and Laeticia’s footsteps, building on the already strong foundation of Rwamatamu by expanding upon its core values of community, integrity, and sustainability.
HISTORY OF COFFEE IN RWANDA
As most African coffee-producing countries (with the exception of Ethiopia), Rwanda was planted in coffee by colonial interests from Europe in order to supply the booming market back on their home continent. High-yield, low-cost varieties were introduced in the 1930s and made compulsory to farmers by Belgian colonials, offering little in the way of quality incentive or development: Coffee was intended to be a cheap commodity available in abundance, and the colonial government held strict mandates over exports in addition to imposing very high taxes on growers, practically enslaving them to the industry. Roughly 75 percent of the land mass of Rwanda is used for agriculture, and more than 35 percent of its population are subsistence farmers, many of whom rely on coffee for at least a portion of their income.
While coffee became the staple agricultural export by the 1990s (despite very low market prices), its production, along with the national economy in general, was devastated by the genocide in 1994. Nearly 1 million people were killed in the national tragedy, which stalled development and slowed progress for nearly a decade. Targeted programs initiated by the government in the early 2000s encouraged Rwandans to use specialty coffee as one of the means to recover and to create a new niche agricultural market. The erection of the first washing station with USAID support in 2004, and the country was the first to host a Cup of Excellence auction, bringing international recognition to the “Land of a Thousand Hills” as a potential producer of exceptional quality.
Today, this tiny country contributes less than 0.2 percent of the global coffee supply, but its reputation for special quality and unique characteristics—not to mention the incredible story of its development as a specialty-coffee origin since the genocide—have earned Rwanda a significant place at the table among African origins.