Wild Coffee Hunt #4: Rwanda 2018
Looking for the best coffee in Rwanda

Wild goes hunting for the best Rwanda specialty coffee. 

It didn't start well.

The journey

It's 650 kilometers - and one border crossing - from our home on 7th Street in Kampala to our destination: Gikongoro in Southern Rwanda. We set off very early morning to beat the mad traffic coming into Kampala, and managed to breeze smoothly through the beautiful Ugandan countryside to the southwestern border town of Kabale.

Here we had a quick coffee pit stop at Joe's Coffee Bar - one of the very few coffee shops in all of Uganda, outside of Kampala.  Joe is a sweet and humble coffee lover, who left a barista career in Dubai to return to his home town to provide quality coffee to his people. Around Kabale some of the best coffees in Uganda are grown. But like in the rest of Uganda, the coffee is not consumed here. (The issue of the sad state of Ugandan coffee consumption is a story for another blogpost.) 

We enjoyed so much our brief meeting with Joe, and I'm sure we will meet again!

But we had to continue. We had a border to cross, and more kilometers to drive. 

Finally, just as it was getting dark, we reached our destination: Gikongoro in Southern Rwanda.

No power

The next morning, just as we wanted to head out to visit the coffee farmers: The car wouldn't start. The batteries (the car has two) were completely dead.

Henry, our mechanic and fixer and expert on all things Land Cruiser, found us a new battery and got the car going again.

The next morning the car once again wouldn't start! Perhaps one of the batteries gave up and took the other down with it. After all, the car, and the batteries, are five years old. Maybe it was just the end of the road for them. After replacing both of them, there has been no more issues.

And then we could finally start on what we came here for: to hunt for coffee!

Our hunt for the best Rwandan coffee

We were immediately impressed by what we saw. Rwanda has made an amazing recovery from the tragedy in 1994 on so many levels. This also includes the coffee industry, which like so much of the country was in ruins after the genocide. 

Today we visited some of the most well built and well organised coffee washing stations we have ever seen. Everything is being done to produce coffee of the best quality, and their operations seems impressively well run.

We visited a few farmers and some of the washing stations in the area, belonging to the KOAKAKA cooperative. All in all we collected 16 coffee samples. 

Then it's time for roasting and cupping (the process of tasting and evaluating the samples) and to pick a winner!

The level of the coffee samples were impressive. It was no easy task picking a winner, but there was one that stood out above the others. We agreed: This is it!

Check out the video to meet some of the farmers behind the wining lot.


Getting down to business

We want to be transparent about our coffee purchases. So here are the numbers from Rwanda.

We always need to negotiate a price for the coffee we are buying. While most coffee buyers will try to push the price down as much as possible to maximise their margins and their profits, Wild does things differently:

First we ask what the farmer wants for their coffee. Then we add our premium on top of that.

However, here in Rwanda the discussion was a little bit more complicated. This time we didn't buy directly from the farmer, but instead from a cooperative. Even though we appreciate the work the cooperative does for the farmers, our premium is not intended to increase their fee. Our premium is intended to go directly to the farmer. So we had to dig into the numbers to find the price the farmer receives, and then add our premium to that figure. 

KOAKAKA wanted $6 per kilogram for their coffee. This includes a Fairtrade premium of $0.44. If you do not want Fairtrade certified coffee, you will pay $5.56.

Wild has decided not to go for Fairtrade certification, but to do our own form of fair trade. Here you will see how it compares to Fairtrade for this lot.

KOAKAKA pays the farmers $1.75 per kilogram, plus a bonus for coffee being sold as specialty coffee of $0.50 per kg.

We want the farmer to receive $1.75 + 100% premium (The Wild premium) = $3.50.

As they already receive a premium of $0.50 on this coffee, we need to top up with $1.25 to reach our target.

So we pay KOAKAKA $5.56 (asking price) + $1.25 (Wild Premium) = $6.81

Comparing premiums

A comparison of premiums (exclusive of their specialty bonus):

Fairtrade premium: $0.44

Wild Premium: $1.25

Difference: Wild pays a premium 185% higher than Fairtrade.

Do you have any questions or opinions? Please let us know in the comments!

Cup of Excellence

KOAKAKA has consistently performed really great in the Rwandan Cup of Excellence competition. So also this year. See the results here.

For 2018 they scored a very impressive 88.69 points. 

Please note: The coffee we purchased is not from the exact same lot as the one they chose to send to the competition. But having cupped 16 samples and chosen the best (in our opinion), we feel confident that our lot is of a similar high quality.

We are so happy with our first Rwandan coffee, and can't wait to serve it to our customers.

Enjoy the best Rwanda specialty coffee!

Wild Coffee Hunt #4: Rwanda 2018
Endre Vestvik 7 April, 2021
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