One of the first stories we heard when we first traveled to Rwanda was the story of Epiphanie Mukashyaka, who showed up in the Partnership to Enhance Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL) project offices as a genocide widow wanting to know how she could build a coffee washing station. Through our work in Rwanda in the early-tomid-2000s, we got to know Epiphanie well and became one of her company’s first customers.
In 2006, we invited Epiphanie to visit Counter Culture and join us at the Specialty Coffee Association of America conference that year; that was Epiphanie's first visit outside Rwanda ever. We will never forget her welcoming dinner with in Durham, which involved a bluegrass band and eastern North Carolina BBQ. Since 2006, we have worked off and on with Bufcafe, but we have worked more closely the last three years with Samuel Muhirwa—Epiphanie's son, who now manages the washing stations.
In 2003, with the help of the PEARL Project, Epiphanie Mukashyaka was able to build her first washing station, called Nyarusiza, under her business, Bufcafe. A few years later Bufcafe built their second washing station—the one from which this lot of coffee comes from—called Remera.
Bufcafe is not a cooperative, however they have taken a much more symbiotic relationship with the thousands of producers with whom they work; not just paying fairly, but rewarding with premiums over the market and other incentives to ensure a strong partnership in the communities they work with.
In 2006, Nyamagabe became the district that encompassed much of what used to be called the Gikongogo province. The Remera washing station in this district is one of the highest in the country, sitting right at 1,950 meters. Producers in this area mainly grow tea and coffee as a cash crop and are very very tiny—owning generally just a few hundred coffee trees.
Rwanda as a whole, and the Rwandan coffee scene, is truly something to behold, and there is a reason more times than not coffee professionals turn to Rwanda as the success story of all success stories. As many people reading this know, Rwanda went through one of the worst human atrocities in the genocide that occurred in 1994. Not just after the genocide, but really after decades of civil war and violence, Rwanda started rebuilding in the late 1990s looking towards many industries as the way towards a better future. The tech industry has been a huge area in which Rwanda has invested, but they also turned to agricultural industries—and coffee, in particular.
The government of Rwanda originally built a few coffee washing stations around the country in mid 1900s, and a handful of other before the 2000s, but, again, because of ongoing conflict and internal challenges, the coffee market didn't take off like other countries in East Africa.
In 2001 though, the PEARL project recognized that there was huge potential in growing coffee in Rwanda, and, within a decade, there are now coffee washing stations all over country. These washing stations were able to take a product that was receiving at or below commodity prices, to a coffee that is often sought after by professionals around the world. In total, prices being paid to some producers has more than doubled.
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 had millions of victims. One of them was Epiphanie Mukashyaka, whose husband was killed in the tragic events of that time. Epiphanie sought to continue her husband's coffee company and was one of the first to grasp onto the hope of super high-quality coffee—a business previously unknown in Rwanda. Epiphanie helped to found the Bufcafe coffee operation which, over time, has become one of the greatest coffee producers in Rwanda. Epiphanie's sons Samuel and Aloys now manage the Bufcafe washing stations and dry mill, and the are constantly working to produce the best product.
Varieties: Bourbon Types (French Mission, Jackson, Mbirizi, Pop)
Elevation: 1,950 meters
Post-Harvest Process: Washed
Harvest Time: April 2014 – July 2014