WASHING STATION – Rwanda Huye Mountain
ALTITUDE – 1,600 to 2,300 masl
LOCATION – Huye District, southern Rwanda
PREPARATION – Fully washed and sun dried on raised African drying beds
VARIETY – Red Bourbon
OWNERS – David Rubanzangabo
CERTIFICATION – Rainforest Alliance
HARVEST – March to July
SHIPMENT – May to September
Rwanda Huye Mountain is the washing station that has recently been made famous in Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ film – ‘A Film about Coffee’. It is located on the slopes of the Huye Mountain in the Huye District in South Rwanda and was established as recently as 2011.
It is a private washing station owned by David Rubanzangabo who is something of a philanthropist. He cares deeply about the smallholder farmers who deliver their coffee to his station, of which there are around 1,330. His drive for quality has brought about a big increase in prices for local farmers. Confirming the high levels of quality that they are producing, is their success in the Cup of Excellence: 2nd place in 2012, and 6th and 11th in 2013 with two competing lots. 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 dung for organic fertilizer for the coffee trees.
Typically a small holding is just quarter of a hectare in size with around 200 trees. The yield is about 4 KG of cherry per tree so ultimately each farm produces only 2 bags of coffee. It is entirely bourbon, which, coupled with an altitude ranging from 1,600 to 2,300 MASL, brings about such complexity of great flavours in the cup. Harvesting normally takes place between February and June with shipments from July to August. The processing is based on washing the coffee with the usual set up that is typical throughout East Africa. The freshly delivered coffee is inspected to ensure only good red and ripe cherries are included. Then it is put into the receiving tank and inferior floaters are removed. The denser, high quality cherries are then pulped in a locally made disc pulper before entering a concrete fermentation tank where they are held for 12 to 15 hours. It is a dry fermentation process meaning that extra water is not added. After this time the mucilage is loose enough to be washed away and now the tank is filled with water, the coffee turned with a large wooden paddle and then drained. This process is repeated a further 4 times to ensure the coffee is clean before being channelled through water (and further floaters removed) before being transported to raised beds for drying. Initial drainage drying is under shade as the coffee could be damaged at this point if the heat is too high. Then it is taken to the drying tables under full sun where an army of colourfully clad women sort the beans by hand, removing defects and turning it regularly. This can take between 15 to 20 days.
Capacity has been an issue at Huye Mountain so David has built a second and much larger washing station to meet the ever growing volumes he is handling. There are 26 collecting stations around the Huye community and a truck visits daily to collect the farmers’ freshly picked coffee cherries.
The parchment coffee then goes to storage to be held for two months while it conditions (the evening of moisture content) before being trucked to the mill of our sister company, The Rwanda Trading Company, in Kigali. Here the parchment is milled away and any further defects are removed using light sorting machines. Gravity sorting machines are also used to remove broken beans and foreign bodies before the coffee is finally packed into 60 KG bags (lined with Grain Pro) and containerised for export. The coffee is trucked to either Dar es Salaam in Tanzania or Mombasa in Kenya where it will be shipped to customers around the world.