This is a great complex coffee with a full bodied sweetness and a gently spiced flavour.
Kinunu washing station lies on the shores of Lake Kivu, a large ‘inland sea’ along Rwanda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a magical place, with Bourbon coffee trees growing down steep, fertile hills right to the shore of the lake (whose surface elevation is 1460m).
Kinunu is one of two washing stations owned by SOCOR ltd. This privately owned business was founded by the local Kubwimana family, who have recently partnered with KZ Noir, a Kigali-based specialty coffee investment company managed by Gilbert Gatali. This well-run and quality focused organisation is helping to manage and improve the quality of coffee processed at the family’s washing stations.
Kinunu buys cherries from 1,796 farmers who live and grow coffee near the washing station and also has partnerships with several local cooperatives and farmers’ associations. Almost all of these farms are very small – typically less than a quarter a hectare each, which farmers use to produce both coffee (300 – 800 trees per farm is normal) and subsistence food crops to feed their families. This year (2013) a total of 309,069kg of cherry was delivered to Kinunu. The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station in a multitude of ways – in baskets on farmers’ heads, on bicycles, in trucks (which pick up cherries from various collection stations in the area) and even by boat.
At Kinunu the cherries are carefully hand sorted to make sure only red cherries are accepted. They are then pulped the same day – almost always in the evening – using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades. After pulping the coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12 hours) and then graded again using flotation channels that sort the coffee by weight (heaviest usually being the best). The beans are then soaked for a further 24 hours, before being moved to raised screens for ‘wet-sorting’ by hand – this is a task almost always carried out by women.
The sorted beans are finally dried in the sun on raised screens (‘African beds’) overlooking the lake, and sorted again several times prior to milling.
Unlike almost all other washing stations in Rwanda, SOCOR has its own dry mill on site at Kinunu and so does not have to rely on a central mill in Kigali (the capital – where mills are traditionally located). This means that SOCOR can oversee the whole supply chain – and so can ensure that it has full control of the quality process from farm to export. As part of this process, SOCOR’s quality control team – some of whom have participated as jurors in several Cup of Excellence competitions – cups lots daily to ensure quality and consistency.
SOCOR employs over 1400 staff at peak season. The organisation has also hired a fulltime agronomist, who is training local farmers on best practices in coffee farming, with the aim of increasing both yield and quality.
Employees at all levels receive training in not only their immediate role (be that, for example, sorting coffee, managing the wet mill, quality control cupping or accounts) but also in the entire coffee chain. The idea is to motivate and inspire employees by encouraging them to feel part of a bigger chain that stretches from their washing station to coffee consumers worldwide.
SOCOR has recently helped to build a secondary school in the area where their farmers are located and, with other partners, has also built a playground at the same school. It also offers advances on school fees to employees and farmers that deliver to the washing station.
1,500 – 1,700 metres above sea level
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