It takes a lot of effort and the involvement of many people to get a bag of coffee to the end consumer. The bulk of this effort occurs at origin; the work of farmers, processors and exporters plays a critical role in determining the quality of the coffee. Our job, as a roaster, is to help the coffee realise its potential.
Here’s the story of one of our coffees, Musasa Dukunde Kawa from Rwanda.
The Ruli washing station, owned by the Musasa Dukunde Kawa cooperative, buys ripe coffee cherries from 1,438 farmers in the surrounding area.
All the cherries will have been hand-picked only when fully ripe and transported to the Ruli washing station for processing on the same day . . .
The lot of coffee from a particular day is given a ‘ticket’ on arrival at the mill. This identifying ticket will follow the lot all the way through processing, thus ensuring full traceability.
Mechanical pulpers are used at the first stage of processing. They remove the outer skin of the coffee cherry along with much of the soft mucilage (or flesh) inside.
The pulper also divides the beans into three grades by weight.
The coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12 hours) to remove the last of the mucilage surrounding the bean.
Flotation channels are used to sort the coffee by weight.
The wet parchment is then soaked in water for 18 to 24 hours.
The beans are laid out on pre-drying tables to be intensively sorted under shade for 6 hours. Unripes are more visible when the beans are still damp.
Roofs over the tables protect the beans from direct sunlight.
The beans then spend 14 days (depending on the weather) on extensive drying tables.
They are sorted again for defects, turned regularly and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers.
At this stage the beans are still covered in a hard, yellowish layer called ‘parchment’.
Once they reach 11% humidity they are then stored in their parchment at Ruli’s purpose built warehouse.
The final stage in the process is dry-milling which removes the parchment layer, finally exposing the green coffee beans.
The coffee goes through a final hand sorting before being ready for export.
The Ruli washing station exports around 9 containers of coffee in a season.
The coffee begins its long journey to us with an overland route which takes it through Tanzania to the port of Dar es Salaam.
The journey continues by sea to the UK and the port of Felixstowe.