Rwanda – Simbi
The Simbi washing station is located in the Huye district of Rwanda’s southern province and services 1,475 smallholder coffee farmers who all grow high quality Arabica red bourbon coffee.
Simbi is a privately owned washing station operated by Abdul Rudahunga, who was inspired to get into the coffee business by his grandmother. She was also a coffee farmer and one of the few rural Rwandans that roasted and enjoyed her own coffee as part of her daily routine.
In Simbi’s first year of operation, a sample was submitted for The Cup of Excellence competition and achieved 9th place, an incredible achievement given its newcomer status. Such an accolade has inspired its owners to focus on maintaining high quality while increasing production.
The washing station was established as recently as 2013 with the construction of a 300 metric ton per season cherry processing facility, and a 2.8 tonne per hour pulping machine. Following the pulping of freshly delivered cherry, the coffee is wet fermented and then the beans are sorted by density using water filled grading channels. The wet parchment is dried under cover for 24 hours before being moved to uncovered drying beds for an average of 15 days. During that period the coffee is continually hand sorted by an army of brightly clothed women who are meticulous in their removal of defect beans.
Coffee Growing in Rwanda: Despite the tragedies of genocide and civil war which shook the world in 1994, Rwanda is an incredibly beautiful and culturally rich nation which also produces exceptionally good coffee. In Rwanda coffee has brought hope for a better future since those dark days and the country is now rightly heralded as a top producer of fine speciality coffee.
Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of Bourbon coffee trees. The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu and in the southern province. Rwandan smallholders organise themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet-mills – or washing stations as they are known locally.
Bourbon: This varietal originated on the Island of Bourbon (now known as Reunion Island) and is a mutation of early Arabica species from Ethiopia. The leaves are broad and cherries can ripen red, yellow or orange. This varietal is known for its amazing complex acidity and great balance.