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Introducing Muduha, a delicious, fully washed coffee from Rwanda

Nectarine, raspberry and cola

Showcased : June 4  to June 30

We’re excited to introduce you to the showcase coffee for June from Rwanda. It’s a real cracker!

Muduha is an elegant fully washed red bourbon with distinct notes of nectarine, raspberry and cola. In our cupping and espresso testing we also discerned mild lemon, honey and bergamot flavours. All in all, Muduha is delicious!

  • Varietal: Red Bourbon
  • Process: Fully Washed
  • Region: Southern Province, Nyamagabe District
  • Altitude: 1935 masl

Muduha’s origin story

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The word Muduha comes from the word umuduha, which is the name of a native African tree that grows on the land among the coffee trees. The umuduha tree is important to the coffee farms as it provides shade, but also produces nitrogen in the soil, which is essential for the growth of healthy coffee trees.

There are 45 farmers that make up the Muduha farmer group. They collectively own one parcel of land, that they have worked and managed together since 2010. The group meets regularly at the nearby Remera washing station to discuss their challenges and successes, and review how they can continue to improve the quality of their coffee. The chief farmer is 56-year-old Faustin Munyaneza, who has been passionately farming coffee his whole life.

It’s very special to have a coffee traceable to a single farmer group in Rwanda. Typically in this country we get traceability back to a washing station, but washing stations receive cherries from hundreds and often thousands of farmers who own very small plots of land. Separation of such tiny lots is impossible and so typically most of Rwandan lots are separated by day pickings rather than a producer. Being able to purchase a lot that is traceable back to a single group of farmers is very exciting and we get to communicate directly with them about the coffee, which offers an important feedback loop between farmer, producer, roaster and barista.

The area where the coffee is grown boasts a very high altitude, almost 2,000 metres, with healthy soil full of acids and nitrogen. This region also has a lower temperature than in other parts of Rwanda, which slows down the coffee cherry maturation, which allows a richer development of flavour.

A coffee born from tragedy and courage

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Muduha is owned by a company called Buf Coffee, which was founded in 2000 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka. She is pictured above, and at the top of this article along with Sam, one her sons. Epiphanie is an incredible woman, a passionate and energetic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other women entrepreneurs in Rwanda.

Sadly, Epiphanie lost her husband and one of her children, and many extended family members in the horrific 1994 genocide. She was faced with the sole responsibility of caring for her seven surviving children and rebuilding their life. With a limited education and little money or support, Epiphanie, whose husband was a coffee farmer, decided to focus on coffee. She set her heart and mind on rebuilding and developing a business, and with it the local community.

Epiphanie started to learn more about speciality coffee with assistance from USAID-financed Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL), a transformational programme aimed at switching the focus of the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality, opening Rwanda to the higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, Sustaining Partnerships to enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development (SPREAD), have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers rebuild in the wake of the genocide, and the world coffee crash, of the 1990s.

Epiphanie started Buf Coffee and also a washing station. She was the first woman in Rwanda to hold a privately owned company and produce specialty coffee. Her aim with the washing station was to improve the quality of coffee by shifting the focus from producing commercial coffee to producing high quality specialty coffee. As a result, she not only improved the livelihood of her family, but also improved those of her neighbours by increasing their income through higher prices paid for their higher quality coffee and, by bringing important services like safe water and electricity to their villages. Buf has very strong links with the local community and provides jobs for hundreds of locals during peak harvest and ten permanent positions year-round.

How Muduha is processed at Remera washing station

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Being located close to the washing station increases the quality of the coffee, as the speed at which freshly picked cherries are processed is directly related to overall quality. The faster the coffee can be processed after picking, the better! This is part of the reason coffee from this group has been recognised in the Rwandan Cup of Excellence program numerous times.

The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station, usually by foot, and sometimes by car. It is then marked with the Muduha farmer group name and picking date. Each lot from Muduha is processed separately. Before being pulped, the cherries are deposited into flotation tanks, where a net is used to skim off the less dense, lower grade cherries. The heavier cherries are then pulped the same day using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.

The beans still in their parchment, are dry-fermented in a tank with no added water for 8–12 hours. The beans are sorted again using grading channels where water is sent through the channels and the lighter, lower grade beans are washed to the bottom, while the heavier cherries remain at the top of the channel. The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours, before being moved to pre-drying beds where they are intensively sorted. This step is always done whilst the beans are still damp because the green unripe beans are easier to see. It is also always done in the shade to protect the beans from direct sunlight, which helps keep the parchment intact and protects the bean.

The sorted beans are finally moved onto African drying beds in the direct sun to dry slowly over 10–20 days. During this time the coffee is sorted carefully for defects and turned regularly to ensure the coffee dries evenly. It is also covered in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest. Once at 11–12% humidity, the coffee, which is still in its parchment, is then stored in the washing station’s warehouse in carefully labelled lots, until it is ready for export.

The coffee is then sent to Buf’s brand new Dry Mill, Ubumwe (built in 2017), to be dry-milled. Here the parchment is removed and the beans are sorted again by hand and using machinery to remove any physical defects. Having control over the milling of the coffee means that they have greater control over the quality of sorting and processing from cherry delivery right through to export, which is why this coffee is so good!

We hope you enjoy drinking this coffee as much as we have enjoyed it.

Matty & Dom

All images courtesy of Melbourne Coffee Merchants

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