RWANDA - GASHURA IREME

$23.00 Sale Save
Size 12oz

Origin: Rwanda

Region: Lake Kivu

Producer: Smallholders, Gasharu Washing Station

Varietal: Red Bourbon

Elevation: 1750 - 2100

Process: Natural Anaerobic

Tasting Notes: Rainier Cherries, Chocolate, Strawberry Wine

We all love the Rwanda Gasharu Natural this year. Just incredibly explosive sweetness. So you know what, it stands to reason - we are gonna love the Ireme too.

A super complex cup that we let develop just a little bit longer. Not a quite a dark roast, but definitely darker than most of our coffees currently. This added development allows the coffee to be sweet, drinkable, while still maintaining the richness of the anaerobic process. We find Rainier Cherries, Chocolate, and Strawberry wine. Just an awesome cup. A dessert coffee? Maybe.

Through 3 rounds of buying with the fine folks of Gasharu Coffee, we are just in love with their coffees and very impressed by their story. Check out the unabridged version in their own words below.

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“Gasharu Coffee Family Story

The story of Gasharu Coffee starts back in 1973 with a story of a 14-year-old boy, Celestin Rumenerangabo, raised by a poor single mum who was internally displaced after the death of her husband during the 1959 uprising that led to the groups of Hutus to launch attacks on the Tutsis. After three years of primary school, due to the mother’s economic hardship, he decided to take a three-day walk trip from Nyamasheke (South-West of Rwanda) to Kigali, the capital. The 14-year-old boy worked as a house made for a loving family in Kigali (precisely Kicukiro) for three years. In 1976, despite being requested by the host family that they wanted to adopt him as a member of the family, he decided to collect all of his savings for the three years and head back to the village to support his single mother who was living alone.

Arrived back to the village, he used most of his savings for the last three years to buy his first land, where he planted his first 380 coffee trees plantation and the remaining to start coffee trading locally. As he was getting started, his mother helped him to take care of the land and he was able to explore more aspects of the coffee as he started working with the local brokers.

From 1978, as he got started with local coffee collection and trading there were no coffee washing stations. Local people would sell coffee cherries or parchments by cups locally known as “Mironko” or by the kilogram.

It was assumed that one “Mironko Cup” is equivalent to “one Kilogram” when the scale was not available. He would buy either cherries or parchments and resell them to local brokers once he has collected a reasonable amount ranging from a few bags to a truck. In those instances where he had bought cherries, he would add them together with the cherries from his own land and depulp these with a Hand-crank Machine.

From 1978 to 1983, he expanded his local business and established several local partnerships with coffee farmers. The year 1983 was a turning point for the grown-up boy, he got married to Marie Goretti, who was a 22 years-old teacher.

With two women in the house, his wife and his mother, the coffee business became truly a family business, it established more partnerships with coffee farmers, established new farms and because of Marie’s teaching background, the business started to support schooling for children from coffee farming families working with the family.

From 1978 to 1994, when the Tutsi Genocide occurred, the business had grown remarkably, it had distributed nearly 7 hand-crank machines since they were not readily accessible nor easily affordable and had established more than 14 coffee collection sites in partnership with other local farmers and provided them with coffee scales for accuracy as they measured the coffee cherries and parchments.

The 1994 genocide of Tutsis that got nearly one million Tutsis killed and many people fleeing the country, was a tragic experience and devastating for the family, many local partners were killed, others fled the country and the family itself left Rwanda and spent four years at Idjwi Island, in Lake Kivu, belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the second-largest inland island in Africa, and the tenth largest in the world. In 1998, Marie and Celestin with their six children returned to Rwanda and restarted the business from zero. Although the coffee farms were still intact, getting started again was extremely difficult, having lost the majority of partners and his mother no longer in good health, and no cash in hand.

Nevertheless, as a family that had contributed a lot to the community and that was a community leader in coffee trading, the community got behind family and with support from a former partner coffee broker, he got started again and was trading nearly 30 tones of parchments after two years. In the early 2000s, the Government of Rwanda advised local coffee processors and traders to adapt to more advanced methods of coffee processing to ensure the highest quality with high returns. In 2006, the family decided to establish its first coffee washing station “Birembo Coffee Station” which had to be sold only six years later due to a high influx of international coffee corporations limiting access to the international market for local small companies and controlling the local market.

The family experience with losing Birembo Coffee Station was a wake-up call to realize that the coffee industry has changed. This experience is not uncommon among local coffee farmers who got their coffee stations bought out or lost them due to loans that could not be paid off. The coffee industry especially in the south-west has been flooded by large multinational companies that have direct access to the global market which in addition to having larger capital, also have more flexibility with prices and easier access to finance.

Although a family-owned local business may find it difficult to compete with multinational companies, the loss of Birembo coffee and going out of business for two years, felt like a loss of the family legacy and letting down our community who were used to collecting advance for school fees or healthcare bills. This sense of community responsibility is what got the family back to business, with the recognition that it will have to step up its game in business, and the belief that with nine children, the family will have the physical and brainpower needed to succeed and continue the legacy of the social responsibility that the family has always carried in the last 43 years.

Since 2014, with the support of the second and fourth born trained as Medical Doctor and agriculture respectively, the family was able to get back on its feet and established Gasharu and Muhororo Coffee stations. Given the fact that more than 85% of coffee stations are owned by international companies with high financial power, the family had to embark on the process to establish relationships with roasters and retailers on the global market although it only managed to start export in 2019.

The goal of our family business is to make Gasharu Coffee a model for farmer-owned coffee businesses, bringing the highest quality coffee from farms to cups, invest in the community and social development projects, and offer the highest possible price to the small-farm coffee producers. We promote high-quality coffee and good living standards of coffee farmers in our community particularly those working with Gasharu Coffee. With the goal to enable the production of better-quality coffee and allow farmers to receive better prices. Every year, our family works closely with 1,650 farmers from 12 main coffee village farms. We also continue to improve coffee quality and farmers’ income by involving farmers throughout all stages of coffee processing. Every year we employ around 320 local workers from the local community during the peak of the crop with 70% of the workers being women. Gasharu coffee promotes sustainable farming philosophy that integrates good production practices with environmental preservation, community sensitivity, and long-term coffee viability.

Gasharu Community and social welfare project

For more than four decades our family has been a resource to the local community. Many people come to collect cash advance with no interest for their coffee mainly to cover kids’ school fees, healthcare costs and weddings. However, the ability to support the community in this way has increasingly become more challenging given the lower coffee prices and unreliable coffee buyers. The family has had to strategize and develop a more step-by-step to establish a strong business that would continue to become a resource for the community in a sustainable manner. Our family believes that this plan will become a reality as more relationships are created with coffee roasters and consumers on the international market.

One component of this plan is to establish a daycare facility at each coffee station to provide women working at the coffee farms and stations with space to bring their children and ensure that the children do not go malnourished while their parents are busy with very demanding coffee harvest and processing work. Currently parents have to leave children to their neighbors or with their siblings to be able to work and sometimes they have no options than taking the kids with them to work. This facility will be a space for women to bring their young children while working and will be a space for them to access basic healthcare services which otherwise could not be an option to them. This plan reduces health risks to women and children in Gasharu Coffee catchment area and contributes to the betterment of families’ welfare.

The other component of this plan is to develop a livestock and kitchen garden project that contributed to the health, economic developmen and social cohesion of the farmer’s community. Due to the high returns, this project will be established around pigs. With an investment of $4000 for five years, the returns to the community as a whole are projected to be around $200,000 assuming that each pig yields two piglets each year.” - Gasharu Coffee