Farm: Musasa Nkara, Ruli and Mbilima
Varietal: 100% Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1800,1,999 and 2,020 metres above sea level
Owner: Musasa Dukundekawa Cooperative - some 2,100+ smallholder farmers
Town / City: Ruli & Rubyiniro
Region: Ruli Sector, Gakenke District of Northern Province & Coko Sector, Gakenke District of Northern Province
Overall: Toffee, red grape, chocolate cookie
Musasa Swiss Water Decaf - Rwanda
Mercanta has been buying from Musasa Dukunde Kawa since 2007 Musasa Dukunde Kawa now owns three washing stations and is one of Rwanda’s larger cooperatives, with 2,148 members as of the 2014/15 crop year. Much of the success of Musasa Dukunde Kawa can be attributed to the transformational PEARL programme of which it was a part. The project switched the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from a historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality, thus opening Rwanda up to the much more highly-valued specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.
Most of the small scale producers with whom Musasa Dukunde Kawa works own less than a quarter of a hectare of land, where they cultivate an average of only 250 - 300 coffee trees each as well as other subsistence food crops such as maize and beans. The cooperative gives these small farmers the chance to combine their harvests and process cherries centrally. Before the proliferation of washing stations such as Nkara, the norm in Rwanda was for small farmers to sell semi-processed cherries on to a middleman, and the market was dominated by a single exporter. This commodity-focused system - coupled with declining world prices in the 1990s - brought severe hardship to farmers, some of whom abandoned coffee entirely.
Today, it’s a different picture. Farmers who work with Musasa Dukunde Kawa have seen their income at least double, and the co-op produces some outstanding lots for the specialty market year after year. ‘Musasa’ means ‘a place to make a bed’ and ‘Dukunde Kawa’ means ‘let’s love coffee’ in Kinyarwanda - a reference to the power of coffee to improve the lives of those in rural communities.
As at most washing stations in Rwanda, women do the majority of the hand sorting. This takes place in two stages - on the covered pre-drying tables and on the drying tables. Washed beans are moved from the wet fermentation tanks onto the pre-drying tables, where they are intensively sorted under shade for around six hours. The idea is that greens (unripes) are still visible when the beans are damp, while the roofs over the tables protect the beans from the direct sunlight. Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s extensive drying tables for around 14 days (depending on the weather), where they are sorted again for defects, turned regularly and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers, ensuring both even drying and the removal of any damaged or ‘funny looking’ beans. Each coffee that arrives is also cupped by Musasa’s team of expert cuppers along with the Q-graders of their exporting partner, Rwashocco.
Lots are usually separated out by days. Upon delivery as cherry, the coffee receives a paper ‘ticket’ that follows the lot through all its processing. This ticket bears the date of harvest and the grade (A1, A2 etc) of the coffee – for instance, if a coffee lot is called ‘Lot 1- 06/04 - A1’, this means it was the first lot processed on April 4 and the grade is A1. This simple but effective practice is a crucial tool in controlling quality and ensuring the traceability of lots.
In addition to the great work that the cooperative does with quality improvement and assurance, they also have various social programs that greatly contribute to the livelihoods of their members. School fees and medical insurance are provided along with training in quality and productivity in cultivation of coffee. The cooperative also gives cows as bonus payment for quality cherry. These cows not only produce milk for cheese, which helps improve diets and provides supplementary income for farmers, they also provide fertiliser for coffee! The cooperative has also invested in a fleet of tailor-made bikes that help smallholders deliver their cherry to the cooperative's washing stations. This not only reduces the labour required for producers but also means that it is easier to deliver cherry on the same day as picking, which helps ensure greater quality.
The Swiss Water® Process
What is the Swiss Water Process?
Swiss Water is a sustainable, organically certified and 100% chemical free process for removing caffeine from coffee.
Natural: This gentle process uses four elements to remove caffeine from coffee: water, coffee, time and temperature. And absolutely no artificial chemicals!
Great Tasting: Swiss Water Process enables the coffee bean to retain the taste and aroma that amazing coffee has, just without the caffeine.
Caffeine Free: After decaffeination, the beans are 99.9% caffeine free (this exceeds the FDA standard for “caffeine free”)
What’s so great about a chemical-free process?
Did you know most decaf is chemically processed?!
70-80% of decaf coffee on the market has gone through a chemical decaffeination process using methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, chemicals which are both harmful to the environment, and aren’t sustainable or organic.
How Does it work?
1. Green (unroasted) coffee beans are immersed in water that is supersaturated with soluble Green Coffee Extract (GCE).
2. The GCE flows over the green coffee beans. Looking for equilibrium, the caffeine in those coffee beans begins to migrate into the GCE.
3. The GCE now contains caffeine but not for long. It flows through carbon filters that trap the caffeine molecules, and the GCE is refreshed.
4. Repeat. This happens continuosly for 10 hours (while we monitor time, temperature and flow), resulting in green coffee beans that are 99.9% caffeine-free.