Since last week, the new coffees from Rwanda are roasted at our roastery in Boxhagener Straße. The medium roast coffees from BUF Coffee Remera, Simbi and the Kopakama Cooperative are 100% Arabica specialty coffees and taste outstanding. We thought this was a good opportunity to talk to Sascha Spittel (founder of Tres Cabezas Berlin Coffee Roasters) about Africa's exceptional growing country.
-How can you describe coffee growing and processing in Rwanda?
In Rwanda, most families have many small cultivation plots, sometimes as small as one hectare. For such small acreages, it doesn't work to buy your own processing equipment and start your own business as a farmer or farmer's wife. So it happens that producers join together to form cooperatives and then use a washing station together. Often there are up to 1000 individual producers whose coffees are processed in the same washing station.
- What difficulties are there with direct trade? Or: are there any difficulties at all?
For us it is the first time that we can buy our coffee directly from Rwanda. We made the contacts for this on site at the "Cup Of Excellence Rwanda 2015". Marianne, our head barista, and I were allowed to participate here as jurors in the selection of the best coffees in the country. The Cup Of Excellence was also an opportunity for us to get to know collaborations, washing stations and transport companies. Through these meetings, we were able to introduce ourselves to local producers as a company, introduce ourselves as people and coffee roasters, build mutual trust, and most importantly, build a foundation for future collaborations Geoff Watts of "Intelligentsia Coffee" was a great help to us. He has been involved in Rwanda for over 10 years. Together with the coffee organization in Rwanda, he organizes training and cupping courses for farmers, exporters and much more. The difficulty was not so much selecting the coffees and talking to the farmers, but rather the logistical part. How do we get the coffee bags to Berlin? Finding a partner with whom we could share a container was much more difficult. That's why the shipment took a little longer than we had planned. But that's the way it is with direct trade. Things can always go wrong. All the more we are happy to finally have the coffees in Berlin and to be able to offer them. All three of them are very far ahead of the pack in terms of taste.
- What is so special about the taste of coffees from Rwanda?
For me, Rwanda is a little jewel in the coffee world. After the genocide in 1994, people started growing coffee again from nothing. Take Epiphanie Muhirwa for example, she is the founder of BUF Coffee. In 1994 Mrs. Muhirwa lost her husband and faced a personal nothingness with her two children. Mrs. Muhirwa decided then to further develop her coffee farm and now she owns two washing stations, which she manages together with her sons. Just like Epiphanie Muhirwa, after 1994 the whole country emancipated itself with the cultivation of coffee and thus found a new stability, a new strength within itself. Rwanda can be proud of this. The coffee qualities that are growing there are second to none. What we now expect from our coffees is only good! The coffees are fine and noble, classic African coffees. They tend to have lighter bodies with fine acid lines and complex, fruity nuances. The foreground is often fresh sweetness and light, floral citrus flavors; also often combined with an exciting tea-like character.
-Do you have a favorite?
I was captivated by the coffee from the Kopakama Cooperative, but I know that our baristas in the stores really like Simbi coffee. Tastes are different and that's a good thing.
- Sascha, thank you for the interview.