SHOW YOUR COMMITMENT
Zirikana is Kinyarwanda for “show your commitment.” We can’t think of a better name for our annual single-origin offering from Rwanda. After all, commitment is what this whole specialty coffee thing is all about, and Rwanda’s coffee sector offers more inspiring examples of commitment than just about anywhere else on Earth.
Rwanda’s push into the specialty coffee sector came in the wake of genocide, a gruesome spasm of violence that set neighbor against neighbor, claimed nearly one million lives in a period of one hundred days and left the country’s economy reeling. The country’s elegant Bourbon varietals and ideal growing conditions helped, as did some of the most effective development projects ever implemented in the coffee sector. But Rwanda’s extraordinary emergence as the source of some of the world’s sweetest and cleanest coffees is mostly a story of determination and commitment. The commitment we made to be present every step of the way, to share everything we have learned over the years about quality and to deliver financial rewards for quality is important. But the real story is the extraordinary commitment shown by hundreds of thousands of ordinary Rwandans: a commitment to focus meticulously on quality in every step of the process, from the farm to the drying table.
Our Green Coffee Buyer for Rwanda J Mlodzinski tells the story of this year’s Zirikana and the commitment of the remarkable Rwandan coffee family behind it.
A COFFEE EPIPHANIE
We had the honor of being present at the creation of Rwanda’s specialty coffee sector, and collaborating from the beginning with its quality pioneers. Among them was Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a natural leader and entrepreneur who firmly embraced Rwanda’s quality-first strategy and executed on that strategy like no one else.
Her family-run business is centered in Rwanda’s Southern Province, where it built its first coffee washing station (CWS) in 2003 at Remera. Just two years later, it built a second CWS in Nyarusiza, in an area bordering the Nyungwe National Park where the soil is extremely rich and the water supply is plentiful. Some of the farmers who deliver cherry to the Nyarusiza CWS produce up to three times as much as growers in other parts of Rwanda. These two washing stations and one family have been the anchor of our Zirikana project from the beginning. Epiphanie has passed the torch to her sons, Sam and Eloys, but Bufcoffee remains one of the brightest lights in Rwanda’s coffee sector.
The advanced quality control systems Bufcoffee has implemented at these washing stations have garnered worldwide recognition, earning a handful of Cup of Excellence awards and consistent quality premiums. These premiums have allowed Bufcoffee to reinvest continuously in its operations.
In 2017, it built a third CWS in the Huye District, purchased a fourth in the Kamonyi District and made plans to continue to grow the family business: Sam recently helped his sister with financing for the purchase of a washing station named Kibingo just a few kilometers from the Burundi border.
In all this growth, Bufcoffee has not lost its focus on quality of the spirit of restless innovation in the name of quality that has been the basis of its success.
At the Remera CWS, Sam has imagined, created, implemented and refined over the past few years something he calls the “Under-Shade Drying System.” Resembling a giant carport for coffee, this covered structure houses drying beds stacked ten high, providing an arid, shaded area where coffee drying time is slowed down to as much as 30-40 days. It is a lengthy process, but it is worth the wait: the coffees that this system produces are more vibrant for longer than those dried in direct sunlight.
We are proud to have played a role in Bufcoffee’s growth and excited to collaborate with it continues to grow the family business and expand the opportunities of specialty coffee to more communities in Rwanda.
As you enjoy this year’s Zirikana Rwanda from the Remera CWS, we hope you appreciate how far the commitment to quality we share with Bufcoffee has taken our Zirikana project and the coffee growers who have participated in to date. (We introduce you below to the growers who contributed to this edition of our Zirikana Rwanda.) We also hope you understand why, as good as this coffee already is, we believe the best is yet to come.
Buy it and meet the growers behind it here.