Coffeeproduced by Ngororero Coffee Washing Station in Western Province has scooped both the “Best of the Best” and “Coffee Lover’s Choice” awards in a competition that attracted brands from nine countries.
The awards were announced last week in New York, during third annual Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award (EIICA).
The awards are organised by Illycaffè – a global company specialised in high quality coffee trade—which operates in 140 countries worldwide.
It is the first time both honours were bestowed on one coffee lot in the history of EICCA, after rounds of blind tastings by an international independent jury of top culinary and coffee experts, as well as consumers across the globe.
Philotée Mukiza, the production manager at Rwacof Exports Limited – a Rwanda based coffee processor and exporter – received the awards on behalf of the company which owns the Ngororero-based washing station among other stations in the country.
The award winner was chosen from among the world’s top coffee lots which were harvested in 2017-18 in nine countries, whose producers attended a gala at the Rainbow Room in New York.
Alongside Rwanda, coffee beans from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India and Nicaragua were chosen to compete as finalists, following analysis at Illy’s Quality Lab at its Trieste, Italy headquarters.
"Quality starts in the mind of the farmer, but working with the Rwacof team and Illy has reinforced my view that everyone in the supply chain plays a role in safeguarding and improving the quality of coffee," Mukiza said.
"Today, half of my time at Rwacof is spent ensuring that coffee is processed at the right time in the right way to meet clients’ needs. The other half is spent on managing our traceability, an area of increasing important,” she added.
Rwacof exports about 30 percent of Rwanda's total coffee export volumes, according to information from its management.
“Events like this one and the Cup of Excellence will hopefully generate more demand, more sales and ultimately better prices and margins for everyone along Rwanda’s coffee chain,” Max Veglio, the Managing Director of Rwacof Exports Limited told The New Times.
Speaking during the award ceremony, Andrea Illy, chairman of Illycaffè said “it is an honour and a pleasure to recognise Ngororero Coffee Washing Station and Ms. Mukiza for their achievement, and that of all of our finalists, who are focused on producing the highest-quality coffee through sustainable methods."
A separate “Coffee Lover’s Choice” award, presented by United Airlines, was also conferred to Muzika on behalf of Ngororero Coffee Washing Station, marking the first time both honours have been bestowed upon one coffee lot in the history of the EICCA.
The “Coffee Lover’s Choice” award, presented by Massimiliano Pogliani, CEO of Illycaffè, was determined by a “jury” of over 1,500 discerning consumers who visited flagship Illy café locations in Kuala Lumpur, London, Milan, Paris and San Francisco, and at special events in Athens and New York City, all of whom tasted coffee prepared from the same beans as for the expert jury.
Between July 2017 to June 2018, coffee exports earned Rwanda about $66 million against $58 million in the previous year.
By the end of the current financial year (2018/2019), Rwanda targets to export 24,500 tonnes of coffee, up from 23,000 tonnes last year, according to statistics from National Agriculture Exports Development Board (NAEB).