Last month, Amy from our training team and Gabi from our Southbank restaurant had the pleasure of visiting Rwanda with Union as representatives of Giraffe World Kitchen to learn all about the culture and how our coffee gets produced - a true once in a lifetime experience! Here’s Amy’s thoughts from the trip…
On our drive to the first ever Coffee Washing Station, we saw some amazing sights; Rwanda is truly a ‘Land of 1000 Hills’, with beautiful greenery everywhere. Even just driving through the country, we got a real sense of the community of Rwanda; as we drove past, the children were running up to the cars just to wave at us.
When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by our host who walked us through the process of ‘washing’ the coffee beans. Farmers bring their cherries on either bikes or lorries, which are then weighed to give the farmer a fair price, and then workers at the station wash them to remove the ‘bad’ cherries which rise to the top during the process. Cherries start to ferment within a 4 hour time window, so this has to be a fast-moving process!
The washed cherries are then pulled through a machine to remove the cascara (skin) and musilage, leaving a white coffee bean behind. The beans then move onto the fermentation tanks before being dried in the sun, which can take up to 7 days depending on the weather.
The beans are then moved onto the sorting tables, where they are hand-picked by workers to ensure only the finest cherries are left; for our coffee to be in the top 5% of quality in the world. Cupping is the next stage, so small batches get sent off to experts to test the coffee to make sure it is fit to be sent off to our suppliers and land in our restaurants. Overall, approximately 160 hours of labour goes into making one cup of coffee, and we know its 160 hours of labour well spent!
After seeing what happens to the cherries, we were given the chance to visit some smallholder coffee farms and pick some cherries ourselves - which was much harder than it looks!
We were made to feel very welcome by the women who work on the farms; they are so passionate about their work and treated us to a celebratory song and dance about making the finest coffee around! They really made us feel part of their community, and it was very touching to see how much working with Union makes a difference to lives in this part of the world, allowing them to be self-sufficient and provide for their families.
We then visited Cocagi, a co-operative coffee farm, where we were treated to a cup of coffee that they had grown and brewed right there. It was so naturally sweet! On our journey, we were blown away by the beauty all around us - and we even spotted a few monkeys on the side of the road. Our hotel was situated right on Lake Kivu, and we couldn’t resist taking a dip in the beautiful waters.
Our whole experience in Rwanda has been incredible; we are very proud to be serving the coffee that these guys produce and work so hard to make absolutely perfect, as our support and business is helping to create a better life. Everyone was so welcoming to us, and we would recommend a visit to Rwanda to anyone!