SPECIALTY COFFEE from RWANDA - Sholi
This batch comes from small farmers who represent Kundwa Women Coffee, a women-only group that operates under the Aba Sholi Cooperative.
This cooperative is located in the Cyeza sector, Muhanga district, in central Rwanda and was established in 2008 by 30 women who live and growcoffee in the region as a conscious effort to invigorate the local economy. Back then, coffee was only a small part of the association, as there was no profitable market for cherries without a washing station in the area. This changed 2 years later when the association became a cooperative. They slowly began to grow, adding new members every year and in 2014 they opened their own car wash station.
“Abateraninkunga” is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “mutual assistance”, which sums up their values to encourage more farmers to join. Today there are 610 producers, many of them women, growing coffee at altitudes between 1,800-2,000 meters above sea level. The cooperative became Fair Trade certified in 2015, the same year it won the Rwanda Cup of Excellence. They have a central washing station where members can deliver the cherries for processing.
Sholi's head office and plantations are located in Cyeza Sector, Muhanga District. The region is known for its cultivation of various fruits and ancient rocks called Sebwugugu.
The changes in the neighborhood after the establishment of Sholi have been miraculous. The process began with a large growth of the local population with people moving away from high-risk areas. They brought many jobs to the community and increased food security, better living conditions and a reliable income to pay for health insurance and school fees. As part of his vision to invest in the local community, he built a health center, a water source and a town hall, which are accessible to the entire community, including non-members.
Everyone at Sholi is treated equally, regardless of age, gender, religion, or disability, and they offer health insurance and a loan system for members to manage cash flow and pay for necessities like school fees.
Rwanda is poetically known as “the land of a thousand hills” and the Muhanga district is no exception. With rolling mountains, rich soils, and abundant sunshine, the region boasts exceptional terroir for growing Arabica. This hilly terrain makes transportation very challenging. However, coffee plays a very important role in Rwanda's growing economy and the increased demand for specialty washed arabicas from this small but beautiful country has allowed it to become one of the most respected producers in the region.
For this batch, the ripe cherries are carefully selected, first by hand, and then by flotation to remove underdeveloped cherries. They are pulped and fermented for 12-18h, generally overnight, to break down the remaining mucilage. After fermentation, the wet parchment is washed with high-pressure water and sorted along the channels to separate the coffee by density. During this grading stage, the coffee beans pass through a series of gates that allow less dense, lower quality beans to flow through, while retaining the denser, higher quality beans for separate processing into higher batches like this one. .
The retained grains are transferred from the channels to the pre-drying tables, where they are carefully classified in the shade for about 4 hours. They are then placed on numbered drying tables around 14 days on warm days, or 21 on rainy days. The coffee is again sorted for defects, any damaged beans and regularly turned over by the women, they are tasked with protecting the coffee from rain or midday sun through the use of covers.