This coffee was produced by small holder producers who farm coffee in the high hills surrounding Remera washing station, located in the Gaseke Sector of Nyamagabe District, in Rwanda’s Southern Province. The farmers are members of the Tuzuramane Farmer’s Group, a small association of producers who deliver coffee to Buf Coffee company, who own and manage Remera along with three other washing stations.
Most washing stations in Rwanda receive cherry from hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of farmers who own very small plots of land. Separation of such tiny lots is expensive and impractical, so the large majority of coffees are processed as a mixed lot from multiple producers. Typically, lots are separated as day lots (ie. cherries that were all picked on the same day) rather than by a single farm or producer group.
The farmers who make up the Tuzuramane group come from a nearby village called Rukamiro. Recently they banded together and made the decision to process and market their coffees separately as a smaller, more selected lot. The group also provide each other with invaluable support, by sharing resources and labour during the busy harvest period. They named their association Tuzuramane, which roughly translates to ‘support each other towards self-resilience’ in the local Kinyarwanda language.
To distinguish their coffee and ensure it is processed separately, the producers have organised to deliver cherry to the washing station on certain days of the week. Selling their coffee as a separate lot allows them to directly benefit from any higher prices paid specifically for their coffees (rather than these profits being shared equally amongst all contributing producers) and results in a higher income to support their families. This creates an effective incentive for the farmers to work as a collective towards achieving the very best quality, and we think the results are evident in the complex and clean profile of their coffee!
About Remera Washing Station
This coffee was processed at Remera washing station, which was established in 2007 and is the largest of Buf’s washing stations, servicing about 722 local coffee farmers. The washing station sits at 1,953 meters above sea level in the high, rugged mountains of Rwanda’s Southern Province. The area surrounding the washing station has mineral-rich soil and a lush environment that is well suited to specialty coffee production.
About Buf Coffee
Buf Coffee was founded in 2000 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a pioneering businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee community, and beyond. Buf is owned and operated by Mukashyaka – known to all as Ephiphanie – and her son, Samuel Muhirwa, who has taken an active role in the day to day operations of the business. The word ‘Buf’ is derived from ‘Bufundu’ and refers to the former name of the region in which all of their washing stations are located.
Using the knowledge and resources she gained through PEARL, along with a small loan from the Rwandan Development Bank, Epiphanie was able to establish Buf Coffee in 2000, and purchased their first washing station – Nyarusiza – in 2003. She was the first woman to own a private coffee company and to establish a washing station in Rwanda. As Epiphanie says, “I came up with the idea to build this, and nothing was going to stop me.” Nyarusiza was followed by Remera in 2007 and now the family also own two other washing stations, Umurage and Ubumwe.
Buf Coffee buys cherry from over 7,000 smallholder farmers in Nyamagabe and Huye Districts of Rwanda’s Southern Province. The company has strong links with the local communities around their washing stations and provide hundreds of jobs during peak harvest (May-July) as well as nearly 50 permanent positions year-round.
Epiphanie and Sam care deeply about the communities they work with. Outside of providing economic opportunities, Buf has initiated many social projects that support farmers in improving their and their family’s quality of life. In 2018 Buf partnered with the Rwandan Government’s One Cow per Poor Family program to distribute 500 cows across organised farmer groups within their supply chain over a five year period.
How Coffee is Processed by Buf Coffee
The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station either on foot, by bike, or by trucks that pick up cherries from various pick-up points in the area.
Before being pulped, the cherries are deposited into flotation tanks, where a net is used to skim off the floaters (less dense, lower grade cherries). The heavier cherries are then pulped the same day using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.
The beans (in parchment) are then dry-fermented (in a tank with no added water) overnight for 8–12 hours. They are then sorted again using grading channels; water is sent through the channels and the lighter (i.e. lower grade) beans are washed to the bottom, while the heavier cherries remain at the top of the channel. The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours, before being moved to pre-drying beds where they are intensively sorted for around six hours. This step is always done while the beans are still damp because the green (unripe) beans are easier to see. It is also always done in the shade to protect the beans from direct sunlight (which they have found helps to keep the parchment intact and therefore protects the bean better).
The sorted beans are finally moved onto raised African drying beds in the direct sun to dry slowly over 10–20 days. During this time the coffee is sorted carefully for defects and turned regularly to ensure the coffee dries evenly. It is also covered in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.