I was in Rwanda a couple of weeks ago to taste this years coffee harvest. I can not recall how many times I have taken the road west from Kigali to Karongi district, where I go to visit the Kopakaki-Dutegure washing station. The first time I visited Rwanda was in 2010 and I have bought coffee from Kopakaki every year since 2013. This is a young cooperative; it formed in 2007 with only 70 members. Today they are 990. report
The coffee harvest in Rwanda was big this year. The crop tend to have a biannual cycle where it goes up one year and down the next - probably due to the stress the high yield had on the scrub. Well, last year the harvest was low, so this year it was high. Kopakaki have 7 containers ready for export, compared to last years 3. I buy a very small portion of this, but I buy the crème-de-la-crème. And Kopakaki do give the extra attention needed to get me the best coffees.
We do have a good relationship, me and Kopakaki. Last year, I initiated a micro lot project with Kopakaki. For me the point of this was to identify the variation I suspected among the farmers. The 900 producers live in several villages around the washing station and the coffee grow on several hillsides. The different growing conditions on the different areas affects the taste of the cup. The lots last year came from villages Gitega, Mataba and Gitarama. They are all aprox 3 km from the washing stations, but in totally different directions. Add different altitudes and most importantly, different farmers.
Gitega is inland southeast and has an altitude around 1700-1850 meter. On the picture you see the Main Street in the village Gitega.
Mataba lay northwest and close to the shore of lake Kivu on an altitude of 1600-1700 meter. The view from the coffee fields are amazing!
Gitarama is also on the shore of lake kivu, but southwest of the washing station on an altitude around 1550-1700 meter. On the picture is Iidephonse Ngendahayo who planted his trees in 1984 and are still harvesting from them.
These small details, plus the effect of having different farmers attending the bushes, makes up the different in taste when the coffee end up in our cups. This fascianates me. It makes the world of coffee so much bigger than any of us ever get to experience. To meet the farmers, see their work, their land, their trees, their smiles and their children is why I travel here, and its always rewarding. This year, when coming to Kopakaki the women, who work there sorting beans on the drying table, welcomed us with song and dance. The energy, rytm and joy is hard to describe, but I can promise you I felt welcomed. I don't know how to handle that kind of appreciation but I am very touched and honored at the same time.
With me home I had samples from the new harvest. I have booked plenty of coffee and I look forward to share with you what Gitega, Mataba and Gitarama has to offer this year.