Karaba District, Karaba Cooperative
Rwanda is an exciting newcomer to the quality coffee market. Just how exciting becomes apparent when drinking for the first time the exceptional lot of coffee we have purchased from the Karaba Cooperative. The cup has a clean, smooth, balanced pecan-and-berries matrix embedding subtle, lovely, delicate floral notes distantly reminiscent of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.
The first roast of Karaba Cooperative coffee should appear in mid-February.
Karaba coffee cooperative is located in Karaba district, Ginkongoro province, in the south of Rwanda. Karaba was legally constituted in May of 2002. The Cooperative’s coffee processing center was financed and constructed with the help of its major partners, Project PEARL, USAID, ACDI/VOCA, OCIR Café, and the District of Karaba.
Karaba district is a hilly, evenly populated, high-altitude region that is covered by a mixture of small farms and dense forest. The coffee trees in Karaba are of the Arabica Bourbon variety and are located at altitudes between 5,200 and 6,200 feet.
Karaba receives an average of 55 inches of rain annually, most of which arrives in during the two rainy seasons of October to January and March to May. The coffee harvesting season is March to July, and most coffee is exported between August and October.
Karaba cooperative is comprised of 2,012 local families, each of which owns on average 250 coffee trees. 400 of Karaba’s families are headed by widows, and most of Karaba’s families are second- or third-generation coffee farmers.
Benenadette Uwinkime, Coffee Grower
Ms. Uwinkime lives a short distance from the cooperative and has been a member of Karaba since 2002. She is the mother of five children, and has been a widow since her husband died in 1990.
"Before the cooperative, coffee prices were so low that I could not afford to pay school fees for any of my children," she said. "Today, prices have risen and I can afford to send my three youngest children to school." Ms. Uwinkime is one of many Karaba farmers who uses the cooperative’s micro-credit program to finance her children’s school fees.
Ms. Uwinkime currently harvests 250 coffee trees in addition to maize and sorghum. Coffee is responsible for over 90% of her income. She and her sons planted 170 new coffee trees last year, and plan to add more following this year’s harvest. He eldest son also makes a living on coffee.
Claver Karambizi, Coffee Grower
Mr. Karambizi lives in Karaba district and has been a member of the cooperative since 2002. He owns 640 trees, not including the 230 young trees he planted in December 2004. Mr. Karambizi lives with his wife, four sons, and two daughters.
Mr. Karambizi is a second-generation coffee farmer who has worked with coffee all his life: "My parents were coffee growers, and today 95% of my income comes from coffee. I have depended on coffee my entire life."
Increases in coffee prices have allowed Mr. Karambizi to pay all of his children’s school fees and to purchase a cow. "One of the most important things is the fact that the washing station greatly reduces the amount of labor required to process coffee," he noted. Mr. Karambizi says that his oldest son, now 18, plans to make a living out of coffee when he is older.
Angelique, Cooperative Accountant and Coffee Grower
Angelique lives within 3 kilometers of the Karaba washing station and has been its chief accountant since March of 2003. Prior to working for the cooperative, she was a student at the nearby groupe Scolaire Cyanika, where she completed her studies in 2002.
"Working for the cooperative has been good, not just because of the income I receive, but because I am learning about the coffee industry all over the world," she said. Angelique has traveled to Nicaragua, England, Kenya, and Uganda to study the operation and management of coffee cooperatives.
Angelique is also a coffee grower herself: her family owns 550 coffee trees and plans to plant more in the near future.
Ethiopia, Koke Cooperative
This is the world’s most floral coffee. Candied lemon and apricot elegantly entwine with the scent of Darjeeling tea from the first whiff to the last sip to make this coffee the absolute proof of the power of terroir in coffee. Medium acidity, light body.
Our current offering is from the Koke Cooperative (we hope to present more information on them in the near future). While very slightly aged, it ably represents the special Yirgacheffe profile. This is a Fair Trade coffee! No chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, have been used in the farming or processing of this coffee.
We apologize for not having this coffee for a while! Finding a good Yirgacheffe for this winter has been a difficult task. Most samples have lacked the floral signature that makes Yirgacheffe unique and so pleasurable. It is better to run out than settle for less!