Today we took a bit of a different road and rather than touring a coffee station, we visited Sorwathe Tea Factory. At least for the morning.
We took the same road north, toward Ruhengeri, that we did on Monday when we went to Shyira. We turned off much sooner and progressed to the east. After making our way through a little village, we found ourselves in an area with tea, as far as the eye could see. It was unlike anything I've ever seen before.
The road leading to Sorwathe winds and twists through farmers' housing, fields of tea and the same jaw-dropping views we'd been experiencing all week. At the end of the road, we were standing at 2000m, overlooking all we just drove through. Pretty incredible place to have a tea factory.
The factory itself was honestly much larger scale than we were expecting to see. They produce tea for big names such as Teavana, David's Tea, Harrods of London, etc. Soon, you'll be able to experience some of their higher end teas at a Rosso near you.
After introductions and general questions, we were toured around the factory to better understand the processing of tea. For those of you who don't know too much about tea, there are only two styles of tea plant in the world. Here in Rwanda, they have the Assam species of tea. These leaves are used to create green teas, white teas and black teas. Depending on the part of the leaf, if it has a bud on the end, and a few stages of processing called withering, steaming, fermentation, rolling and mashing. This results in a different style and/or different grade of tea. Pretty fascinating.
We're exploring our options, but this might be the beginning of a tea program that rivals and parallels the philosophies of our coffee menu. Stay tuned.
After being offered lunch with a view at Sorwathe, we progressed on to our last coffee station for the week, Bumbogo.
Conveniently, Bumbogo is located on the drive back to Kigali, so it wasn't another marathon day of driving! The roads off the highway were pretty rough, muddy and rocky, but we're seasoned vets when it comes to that sort of thing now.
This station is brand new for our buddies here at MTCo. They just opened in January this year and are finishing the processing of some of their first harvests. Ultimately, they practice the same systems and standards that MTCo has implemented at our other station visits. Which, for us, is really great to see.
They're quite a bit further off of the highway and finding sources for power and water has proved more difficult than at the other stations. Here at Bumbogo, the team has hooked up solar panels to drive all the electricity. As a fun side note, we've been told that Akon, a well known hip hop artist, is now running a solar business in Africa, and this is where the panels came from.
These guys have been having some difficulty with weather (rain) in regards to drying their coffees, but that really just means they're not doing naturals or honey coffees - not a huge deal at all.
Tomorrow is a big cupping day for us. We'll taste samples we've been picking up through our tours this week, evaluating them and figuring out our purchases. We'll let you know what we finalize :)
The internet has been challenging, so I'll upload more photos as I can.
Cole and Emmanuel putting on a little show.
Eustache, the station manager here at Bumbogo
The Aerial Vantage point of Bumbogo Coffee Washing Station
Part of the tea grading and separation at Sorwathe