HUYE — Rwandan coffee farmers should always wash their coffee cherries at washing stations in order to maintain good quality coffee.
The advice was given by two American coffee roasters George Krug, and his wife Susan Krug, after visiting the country’s coffee farms this week.
The duo own Ancora Coffee Roasters, based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. During their one week visit in the country, they visited farmers in Maraba, Bufcafé, and Karaba coffee cooperatives in Huye, and Nyamagabe Districts.
Krug promised that if farmers maintain the quality of their products, he would increase on the quantity of coffee he buys from Rwanda.
“Good quality coffee attracts high prices,” Krug said, explaining how coffee farmers can get fair prices for their product. He stressed that farmers should desist from washing their coffee cherries at home to maintain quality coffee.
“The washing part of the process is really critical. It’s so important for farmers to bring their coffee to washing stations so that they can be sure of getting the best quality out of it,” he said.
“At the washing station they pick out underripe and overripe fruits before they pulp it. Then they have control over the pulping process so that it has proper fermentation time and proper washing time which has huge effect on the quality of coffee,” he added.
According to the chief coffee quality controller of OCIR-Café, Malliavin Nzamurambaho, many farmers across the country still wash their coffee at home.
Farmers reportedly fear to sell their products to washing stations because the prices are normally low. They therefore prefer to process it themselves before selling it to avoid losses.
“It is a question of mentality,” he said of farmers who prefer processing their coffee.
“It requires a lot of sensitization to change their minds.”
Nzamurambaho cited Gatsibo district, in Eastern Province, Gicumbi, in the Northern Province, and Nyamasheke in the Western Province where the practice is common. The farmers there reportedly own small coffee pulping machines, and they prefer washing their coffee at home.
Many farmers in Rwanda are currently harvesting ripe coffee cherries. Nzamurambaho said they should be selling these ripe cherries at Frw120 per kilo to washing stations.
When farmers wash their coffee, the product attracts between Frw120 and Frw780 per kilo.
Private coffee quality controllers believe that the tendency of shunning acceptable coffee washing processes is borne out the need for fast money.
Gilbert Gatari, the Director of Rwanda Small Holder Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOSCCO), a coffee marketing company that markets coffee for 15 coffee farmers’ cooperatives, observed that farmers who wash their own coffee are those who want to avoid pressure.
“Many of them just need quick money. They don’t want to sort out their coffee before selling it to local buyers,” he said.
Gatari explained that it is illegal to process coffee at home, and local authorities keep reminding farmers that it contravenes the recommended guidelines.
Krug and his wife have been buying Rwandan coffee from Bufcafé for the las four years. Last year alone, they bought 6,000 kilograms. They said they intend to increase their suppliers in Rwanda to include other cooperatives.
“The quality of the Rwandan coffee that we’ve been buying is rated above other coffee produced in other East African countries like Kenya and Ethiopia. Personally it is one of my favorite coffees,” Krug said.
Ethiopia and Kenya are among other countries where his company buys coffees. Ancora Coffee Roasters has three coffee houses and serves over 11,000 customers in Madison each week.