Mbilima Organic

  • Country
    Rwanda
  • Province
    Northern Province
  • District
    Gakenke District
  • Sector
    Coko Sector
  • Variety
    Red Bourbon
  • Processing
    Fully Washed
  • Washing Station
    Mbilima
  • Washing Station Altitude
    2,020m above sea level
  • Farmers
    274 of the 1,192 Dukunde Kawa Cooperative members
  • Owner
    Dukunde Kawa
  • Awards
    Cup of Excellence 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018

Lifted and floral, with lemon blossom and honey fragrance. Apricot, cherry and red apple, with sweet almond on the finish.

This 1,200kg micro-lot was produced by smallholder farmers who deliver coffee cherry 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.

Mbilima sits at a staggeringly high 2,020 metres above sea level, making it one of Rwanda’s highest washing stations. By Rwandan standards, it is quite a small washing station, servicing only 459 local producers in the area. It was built in 2005 with the profits earned from Dukunde Kawa’s first washing station, Ruli. Three permanent staff and 51 seasonal workers are employed by the washing station – of whom 95% are women.

Quality control and day-to-day operations are overseen by John Bosco Habimana, who has been the washing station’s manager since 2012. Mbilima has recently become 100% organic, Rainforest Alliance certified, UTZ certified, and Fair Trade certified. John Bosco explained that becoming certified has been extremely useful in formalising and documenting a lot of things that the cooperative was already doing. “It has helped us to better the lives of our producers and quality of our coffee. It’s been 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.” 

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

PROCESSING AT MBILIMA WASHING STATION

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 named the ‘Umupolisi’ (police person). 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 with 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.

WHY WE LOVE IT

This lot exemplifies the hard work the members of Dukunde Kawa have undertaken 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.