Mbilima Organic

  • Country
  • Province
    Northern Province
  • District
    Gakenke District
  • Sector
    Coko Sector
  • Washing Station
  • Elevation
    2,070m above sea level
  • Variety
    Red Bourbon
  • Processing
  • Farmers
    720 contributing producers
  • Washing Station Owner
    Dukunde Kawa Cooperative
  • Awards
    Cup of Excellence 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018
  • Relationship Length
    Since 2009

Bright and juicy, with crisp lemon lime acidity and panela sweetness. Orange blossom, green apple and elderflower.

This 100% Red Bourbon lot was produced using coffee cherry from 720 smallholder farmers who deliver to Mbilima washing station, one of three washing stations owned by the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative. Mbilima is nestled in the high hills near the small town of Musasa, located in the Coko Sector of Gakenke District, in Rwanda’s rugged and mountainous Northern Province. Musasa town is close to the famous Virunga National Park, and this part of the world has mineral-rich soil and a lush environment that is well-suited to specialty coffee production.


Typically, farms in this area are very small – averaging just a quarter of a hectare – and are situated between 1,800 to 2,100 meters above sea level. Coffee is grown as a cash crop, alongside subsistence food crops like maize, beans and sorghum and some livestock like goats, chickens and sometimes cows.

Mbilima sits at a staggeringly high 2,070 metres above sea level, making it one of Rwanda’s highest washing stations. By Rwandan standards, it is quite a small washing station, servicing a total of 874 growers (643 men, 231 women) in the area. It was built in 2005 with the profits earned from Dukunde Kawa’s first washing station, Ruli. Four permanent staff and 49 seasonal workers are employed by Mbilima – of whom 95% are women.

Day-to-day operations at Mbilima are overseen by Jean Bosco Habimana, who has been the washing station’s manager since 2014, while QC is headed by Agnes Mushimiyimana. The washing station is 100% organic, Rainforest Alliance certified, UTZ certified, and Fair Trade certified. Jean Bosco explained that becoming certified was extremely useful in formalising and documenting a lot of things that the cooperative was already doing. “It helped us to better the lives of our producers and quality of our coffee. It’ was a lot of work to get the certifications,” he explained, “but it also made us realise how many positive things we were already doing. The certifications reinforce this.” Because all lots processed at Mbilima are organic, they are dry milled and kept separately.

Head here to learn more about the work of Dukunde Kawa in Rwanda.


The team at Dukunde Kawa takes a huge amount of care in processing its coffee. All members of the cooperative are trained to only select ripe coffee cherries from their trees.

  • On delivery the cherries are inspected and sorted by hand to ensure only the very ripest cherries are processed. They are then sorted by weight (and any floaters are removed) by a Pinhalense machine that the washing station staff affectionately have nicknamed the ‘Umupolisi’ (police officer). They are then pulped on the same day – usually in the evening – using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight, with the heaviest, A1, usually having the highest cup quality.
  • After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight for around 12–18 hours and then graded again using floatation channels that sort the coffee by weight. The beans are then soaked for a further 24 hours, before being moved to raised screens for ‘wet sorting’ by hand.
  • As at most washing stations in Rwanda, women do the majority of hand-sorting. This takes place in two stages – on the covered pre-drying tables and on the drying tables. Washed beans are moved from the wet fermentation tanks onto the pre-drying tables, where they are intensively sorted under shade for around six hours. The idea is that greens (unripe beans) are still visible when the beans are damp, while the roofs over the tables protect the beans from the direct sunlight.
  • Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s extensive raised drying tables (‘African beds’) for around two weeks, where they are sorted again for defects, turned regularly and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers, ensuring both even drying and the removal of any damaged or defective beans. During this period the coffee is also turned several times a day by hand to ensure the coffee dries evenly and consistently.
  • After reaching 11% humidity, the coffee is then transported to Dukunde Kawa’s purpose-built warehouse prior to final dry-milling and hand sorting at the cooperative’s dry mill.


This lot exemplifies the hard work the members of Dukunde Kawa take to produce coffees that fulfil the potential of this beautiful region. We love the lifted florals and cherry notes in this coffee and its sweet almond on the finish.

We feel so lucky to work with Dukunde Kawa. When we first started working with the cooperative over a decade ago, the president at the time, Anastase Minani, explained that their goal was to be the very best cooperative in Rwanda. We think they’re well on their way to achieving this goal, and we are excited to have been able to share this journey with them.