Rwanda Musasa Nkara
Apple, Red Berries, Oolong
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Varietal: Red Bourbon
Elevation: 1800 - 2000 m.a.s.l.
We Taste: Apple, Red Berries, Oolong
The Nkara washing station, established in 2007 under the Musasa Dukunde Kawa cooperative, serves smallholder farmers in the Ruli Sector. These farmers, owning less than a hectare of land, cultivate coffee trees alongside subsistence food crops. Through the cooperative, farmers can consolidate their harvests and process cherries collectively.
Previously, farmers would sell partially-processed cherries to middlemen controlled by a single exporter. This system, focused on commodities, combined with declining coffee prices, led some farmers to abandon coffee production entirely. Musasa Dukunde Kawa prioritized quality and opened Rwanda to the specialty coffee market, resulting in increased income for the farmers.
Nkara is one of four washing stations owned by Musasa Dukunde Kawa, processing coffee from 15-20% of the cooperative's producers. The station employs a wet mill manager, four permanent employees, and approximately 53 seasonal workers.
Ripe cherries are carefully hand-picked and promptly pulped using a mechanical pulper, which separates the beans into three grades by weight. The coffee then undergoes overnight fermentation and further sorting by weight using flotation channels. The wet parchment is then soaked in water for 18 to 24 hours to stabilise the moisture content.
At Rwandan washing stations, women play a significant role in hand sorting. After being transferred from the wet fermentation tanks, the coffee is sorted under shade on pre-drying tables for approximately six hours. This allows for easy identification of unripe beans while still damp, while the roofs protect them from direct sunlight.
Next, the beans are moved to larger drying tables to dry for about 14 days. During this period, they are sorted again, regularly turned, and shielded from rain and the midday sun. Once the beans reach 11% moisture, they are stored in parchment at Nkara's purpose-built warehouse before undergoing final dry-milling and hand-sorting at a new dry mill in Kigali.
The cooperative's commitment to quality extends beyond processing. They provide various social programs such as school fees, medical insurance, and coffee training. They also reward farmers with cows, which provide milk for better diets and supplementary income, also serving as a source of fertilizer. The cooperative has also invested in tailor-made bikes to facilitate cherry delivery, reducing labor and ensuring better quality.