Coffee in Rwanda
Coffee in Rwanda is one of the main cash crops that the country exports and doubles as a tourist attraction for travelers that love to explore plantations. Coffee in Rwanda goes back all the way to 1904 when missionaries’ brought the first coffee trees to the country as they visited the country on their missionary trips. The missionaries brought the trees and encouraged the locals to take on the growing coffee and slowly as the communities adapted to growing coffee, coffee production in the country has grown and now the country grows coffee for both domestic consumption and export. As of 2019 coffee is the largest cash crop in Rwanda and Coffee experts worldwide can attest that Rwanda produces some of the most high-quality coffee in the world; matter of fact, Rwanda coffee was voted the best coffee in the world.
The coffee in Rwanda is 95% Arabica Varietal Bourbon; the coffee beans depending on the grounds they were grown in, normally have a slight taste of either lemon, orange or caramel when chewed and they always have a silky creamy body.
Coffee in Rwanda is grown by over 60% of the farming communities across the country for purposes of exports and processing for local consumption; some communities especially the ones in Gisenyi on the Lake Kivu shores grow coffee that is part of the tourism attractions in the country. Though the coffee is still grown for exportation and local consumption, the plantations and washing stations in some areas are open for visits by tourists; which visits allow the tourists to appreciate Rwandan coffee even deeper.
The travellers who get to visit the coffee farms and washing stations are delighted at the experience because of the richness that is in the all process of the coffee growing and processing. The tours to the coffee plantations and coffee washing stations are guided by local farmers in the communities through farming cooperatives; these farmers take the visitors through the plantations and through the washing stations explaining the different stages that the coffee goes through from the to the cup for your drinking pleasure. During these tours, the tourist gets the opportunity to engage in the process of harvesting coffee, sorting, grading, fermenting, drying and roasting coffee. You also get to taste some of the already processed coffee.
Coffee tours are offered whole year-round at a fee of 50 USD per person, this fee does not include the transport costs or other costs associated with the tour. The tours normally run for 4 or slightly more hours depending on the activities and the hours can also be cut short upon your request.
For this tour, you will leave Kigali city head 3 – 4 hours northwest to Gisenyi and from Gisenyi you will take a boat ride to the coffee washing stations and plantations.
You should know that coffee farms or washing stations don’t plan the coffee tours, so you have to go through a tour operator or Rwanda Development Board to plan and book your coffee tour.
Depending on the time of year you visit the coffee plantations or washing stations, you will either find the coffee beans deep cranberry red or green that is in the harvest and budding season respectively.
When you visit the farms during the budding seasons, they may be very little harvesting to engage in so you will probably proceed to witness the other stages of coffee processing.
However, when you visit the farms during the harvest period you will witness that the deep cranberry red coffee beans collected from the farms, by the farmers who are able to differentiate the grown, mid grown and not grown beans.
After the farmers collect the beans from the farms they will take them to the washing stations, where the beans will be washed, sorted by hand, pulped, fermented and graded according to predetermined standard guidelines that are issued by the country’s coffee regulatory body.
After this activity, which can take from a few days to a couple of weeks to complete the whole bunch that was harvested; the beans are then taken out to dry in the sun on raised screens and when they are dry (the farmers know how to tell the dry and not dry beans) the beans will then be transported to Kigali city to be taken to the mill for milling.
So at the washing station that will be all you will witness. The farmers will also take you through some plantations as they explain a whole lot of stuff about coffee.
You will crown your tour by taking some brewed coffee to taste the unique, exquisite and award-winning coffee that is grown and processed in Rwanda.
On your coffee tour, you will also have an opportunity to interact with the coffee-growing communities, get one on one interaction with the men and women who grow this coffee.
The washing stations you will visit are:
1.Kinunu washing station
This is the most commonly visited station; the station is located south of Gisenyi and strategically overlooks the shores of Lake Kivu, giving you beautiful views to admire as you visit the coffee washing stations.
The coffee at this washing station is bought from local coffee farmers that grow coffee near the facility and from other partner cooperatives that supply coffee to the washing station.
This washing station is accessed by either water transport, you get a boat on Lake Kivu and cross over to the station or you can use a bicycle and cycle hike on the Congo Nile trail to get to the station.
Ingoboka is near the Kayove village between Gisenyi and Karongi. Ingoboka coffee processes are managed by the Ingoboka collective that operates numerous washing stations and plantations in the Ingoboka area and Nyamirundi Island. The coffee produced in Ingoboka is known by coffee experts worldwide as one of the high-quality Arabica coffees in the world.
In Ingoboka, after the washing process, beans that are not transported to Kigali can be roasted and then brewed there and then. This is what is famously known as the crop to cup coffee.
Also as you plan your coffee tour, there are options of you visiting the washing stations and after returning to Kigali, however sometimes that tours take more than four hours and you will need to get accommodation near Gisenyi.
Accommodation facilities in Gisenyi are well-furnished and equipped to cater for all your needs especially the sleeping and eating needs. Check with a tour operator to advise on an accommodation that suits your taste and budget
As you plan to visit Rwanda this season, plan to have a coffee tour, you will be delighted.