Our first Rwandan filter release of the year is the start of a new relationship for us, not just with this producer but also the Huye region in Rwanda in general. We are typically focussing on securing coffees from Nyamasheke and Nyamagabe, in the West and South of Rwanda, but have not before ventured this far South in the country to the Huye region of Rwanda’s Southern Province.
The Ibisi Mountain Hills coffee washing station is only in its second year of production, having been established in 2017 by Bernard Uwitije, a year after he began operating his first station, Gitega Hills in Nyamagabe. Both stations are very young, yet already winning accolades, with Ibisi placing 23rd in this year’s Cup of Excellence. It is located in Maraba, which is a very famous coffee town of Rwanda, and it is almost rubbing shoulders with Rwanda’s incredible Nyungwe national forest. The local town of Ibisi Bya Huye is the highest elevation district of the region, with the 1405 small scale farmers who deliver coffee cherries to the washing station cultivating their crops at 1,900 – 2,000m. They have an average of 300 coffee trees per family as well as supplementary crops of pineapples and macadamias. As well as paying high prices for good coffee cherry deliveries, Bernard is supporting his community by paying for a health insurance scheme and school fees for the producers’ children.
Bernard divides the smallholders he is working with into 45 training groups, and employs 6 permanent agronomists and field officers who visit them to assess their productivity and offer training on how to improve their coffee yield and quality. The first year of production in 2017 amounted to around 560 tonnes, but in 2018 they produced 790 tonnes thanks to these efforts. Before the cherry is processed at the washing station it is first hand sorted on tarps, to remove any under and overripe fruit, just one of the extra stages necessary to produce top quality outturns. After sorting the coffee is depulped and mucilage is partially removed with a Penagos 2500 UBCE, but he still opts to wet ferment the coffee for around 8 hours, which develops the flavour further. The coffee is then density graded in washing channels and spends a full day being sorted under shaded raised beds before going out onto raised beds under sun to slowly dry for 15 days, still being continually turned and sorted through for defect beans.
Once dry milled it is typically the larger beans that are sold as premium grades, the standard being 15+ screen size, but in recent years peaberry grades have been gaining momentum as another premium grade that Rwanda are producing, similar to how Kenyan peaberries are often prizes as much as their AA and AB grades. We found that this PB selection from the Ibisi coffee washing station had a lot of crisp acidity and great structure, with a concentration of flavour that could be down to the innate density of these small, round beans.
Ibisi Bya Huye, Maraba, Rwanda
A balanced cup with pear and black grape flavours complementing notes of caramel and milk chocolate. Vanilla and molasses linger in the finish.