We spent yesterday driving from Kigali to Nyamasheke, which sits on the Western side of Rwanda. According to the map, it's not a far distance, but thanks to Rwanda being 'the Land of a Thousand Hills' it took five hours to arrive by car.
The drive hosts breathtaking views from every direction. We also made a pit stop to have refreshing beverages in a nice town called Kibuye. So all in all, it wasn't so bad!
We arrived late to our accommodation and were greeted in the morning to a nice breakfast and an amazing view. We were even fortunate enough to do a yoga class in front of the view. Thanks Ashley.
We hit the road by 7:30 to tour Rugali, another of the stations owned and operated by our friends MTCo.
This is the biggest of their stations, with 170 drying beds to host all the coffee they receive from surrounding small farmers.
It's amazing to see the influence they've had on the production of coffee here in Nyamasheke. Generally, farmers will be paid for all quality levels of cherry, and aren't often held accountable to proper picking standards. Here at Rugali, through the teachings of MTCo, they are educating their farmers to pick ripe cherries and to sort out any green, overripe, dry, insect damage or defective. This correlates directly to the quality achievable in the cup! Poor picking will limit that quality, so they've instilled practices to sort out any cherries that don't meet the standard. They will, however, still buy all the cherry to be fair to the farmers. The lower grades will be sold to local markets.
From the sorting, cherries will go to processing. Here, Rugali is doing washed, honey and natural processed coffees. They're the first company in Rwanda to legally process coffee as a natural or a honey. They've even tried a unique processing method we haven't named just yet, but we think it might be one of a kind - or at least the only of its kind in Africa. We'll share more details about it later.
Have you ever seen videos of winemakers stomping their grapes and singing/dancing while doing so? That's how they remove the mucilage from the coffee parchment here at Rugali and other MTCo Stations. They call it ikinimba. It's an infectious way to spread joy and cheer across the surrounding people. It also helps activate the sugars and start up the fermentation stage. See our next post about Kilimbi Station for our experience trying this out first hand - or first foot ;)
We toured the mills and saw all different grades of coffee drying. Each of the tables had workers shifting the parchment to ensure even drying. Other workers were picking out beans that did not belong on that table. It was really, really good to see!
We finished our day with all the workers at Rugali gathering around, singing, dancing and laughing with us. It was an incredibly warm and amazing experience. Something that I personally had never experienced until then.
We can't wait to bring coffee from Rugali back to Canada.
After seeing Rugali, we left to tour Kilimbi. See our other post for the story of Kilimbi.
Hobe hobe hobe ab'iwacu muraho!
The majority of workers at MTCo Stations are women. The empowerment of women in Rwanda is inspiring.
This is Radjab, the Station Manager here at Rugali.
An aerial vantage of Rugali. The darker beds on the left are naturals, the lighter beds on the right are honeys and fully washed.