Karambi is located in the Karambi sector in the Nyamasheke district, Western province and borders Nyungwe Forest National Park. It was built in 2016 and is, to date, the sole station that Rwacof has built from the ground up. The altitude in the region starts at 1,700 and extends up to 2,000 meters above sea level.
The washing station is a four-hour drive west of Kigali. On the top of the hill, like a gateway to Karambi station, is a big school, also named Karambi. The school has a wide range of grades from primary school to high school. Passing through this busy, energetic gateway unnoticed is simply not possible. Hundreds of active and excited children and busy people bustle around this station.
In a reflection of this energy, Karambi station seems to never stop during the nearly four full months of the harvest. The station has up to 120 staff in peak season. Every step of the process is continuously attended to by experienced eyes.
The Nyamasheke district has the highest concentration of washing stations in all of Rwanda. The region lies along the Kivu Lake where growing conditions are optimal. Good altitude, great soil, favorable rainfall — basically everything to produce the best coffees—can be found here.
The farmers who deliver their cherry to Karambi are flush with options of nearby washing station. Karambi has very high-quality standards, but in order to be competitive, they must accept nearly all cherry delivered. If they do not, the farmer will choose to go to a different station next time in order to sell more of their crop and avoid the hassle of sorting.
After purchasing cherry from producers, Karambi sends the cherry through a strict sorting process. First, washing station staff remove any lower quality cherry through flotation. Then, a specially trained staff visually inspects the remaining cherry for any visual defects.
After sorting, cherry is pulped on a Pinhalese depulper outfitted with a demucilager that removes up to 80% of the mucilage before fermentation. Parchment is then fermented for 10 hours before being laid out to sun dry on raised beds. While drying, the coffee will be regularly sorted to remove imperfections and sifted to ensure even drying.
In concert with our sustainability partner, Kahawatu Foundation, Sucafina Rwanda (Rwacof) invests heavily in farmer training and good agricultural practices. Rwacof’s Farmer Field School shares information with all their producer partners about best agricultural practices, conservation tactics, the importance of picking only ripe cherry and more.
Furthermore, Rwacof is focused on improving the financial situation of the farmers with whom they work. Annual bonuses are always distributed once the coffee is sold. As part of Sucafina’s innovative Farmer Hub program, these second payments are deposited into zero-fee bank accounts. Second payments are typically given as cash. Through our Farmer Hub program, these bank accounts offer wider-reaching benefits, including more secure storage for their money and the opportunity to build a financial credit history & give them access to credit lines with better interest rates.
Above all, Rwacof's exceptional attention to detail during post-harvest activities ensures the best quality coffee possible. From the moment cherry enters the washing station until it is milled and bagged for export, Rwacof keeps stringent quality controls in place. They know, as we do, that high quality coffee is crucial for delivering benefit all along the supply chain.
Despite its turbulent history, today Rwanda is one of the specialty coffee world’s darlings – for good reason! Our sister company in Rwanda does an amazing job of bringing the best that Rwanda has to offer to roasters around the world.
German missionaries and settlers brought coffee to Rwanda in the early 1900s. Largescale coffee production was established during the 1930 & 1940s by the Belgian colonial government. Coffee production continued after the Belgian colonists left. By 1970, coffee had become the single largest export in Rwanda and accounted for 70% of total export revenue. Coffee was considered so valuable that, beginning in 1973, it was illegal to tear coffee trees out of the ground.
Between 1989 and 1993, the breakdown of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) caused the global price to plummet. The Rwandan government and economy took a hard hit from low global coffee prices. The 1994 genocide and its aftermath led to a complete collapse of coffee exports and vital USD revenue, but the incredible resilience of the Rwandan people is evident in the way the economy and stability have recovered since then.
Modern Rwanda is considered one of the most stable countries in the region. Since 2003, its economy has grown by 7-8% per year and coffee production has played a key role in this economic growth. Coffee has also played a role in Rwanda's significant advancements towards gender equality. New initiatives that cater to women and focus on helping them equip themselves with the tools and knowledge for farming have been changing the way women view themselves and interact with the world around them.
Today, smallholders propel the industry in Rwanda forward. The country doesn’t have any large estates. Most coffee is grown by the 400,000+ smallholders, who own less than a quarter of a hectare. The majority of Rwanda’s coffee production is Arabica. Bourbon variety plants comprise 95% of all coffee trees cultivated in Rwanda.