Abakundakawa is a 1700 member cooperative that mills its coffee at the Rushashi washing station. The average altitude here is 1600 to 1800 meters for coffee production, the varietal is traditional Bourbon seedstock, and the typical wet process method is used, with sun-drying on raised beds or patio. This is fair trade certified, part of the USAID project in Rwanda to improve the quality of life ... but it is also a special micro-lot separated from the bulk production of the Abakundakawa coop. This is produced exclusively by a women's group, Duhingekawa, a sub-group of the coop, and we have paid a premium for this particular lot that is returned directly to the women producers.
(Left photo: Joselyn Nikuzi, storekeeper with the A1 parchment coffee. Note the raised beds. Right photo: Constance Niyampore, director of Duhingekawa)
Here's some more detailed information that explains the situation in more detail, this coming from the importer/development folks in the UK who are doing the groundwork on this coffee:
Of the current 1,760 members of Abakundakawa Coop, 720 are women. Currently, 70 women make up the Duhingekawa women’s group, a name that means “let us grow coffee” in Kinyarwanda. The women who are in the Abakundakawa group are women heads of household, to use project jargon. That means their husbands were mostly killed at the time of the genocide. They are looking after their own children, but often they are also looking after orphans from families of relatives, and even of non-relatives, where both parents were killed. They have formed a group within ABK. I'm afraid when we talked to the ABK president, Charles Habinshuti, this morning he did not know the name or the numbers of the group, but promised to find out and tell us. This group has met several times, and agreed amongst themselves to deliver their best coffee as a group to ABK. This coffee is separately received and treated throughout the washing station system at Rushashi. We are fortunate in having a very good storekeeper at ABK, Joselyne, (I sent you her photo yesterday) and she follows what's going on with this coffee from cherry to store, where she becomes responsible for it. The only coffee we are offering from this group is their A1 (most dense grade of parchment) above screen 16 (largest green beans). So at least 50% and probably more of the women's coffee is not being offered as part of the special lot, but is being bulked with the rest of the ABK coffee, according to its grade and screen sizeFrom my perspective as a development person, the most interesting thing about this women's initiative is when it starts to influence the more general culture going on around it in the coffee farming community. Obviously, the women want to get a better price for their coffee if they can, by differentiating it in this way. They do take great pains with it, it is only their best coffee, so it might well end up being better in the cup than the average, although how much better remains to be seen. What the president says is that if they do get a better price, it will encourage men from other households (coffee is a male-owned crop in Rwanda, except in the case of women heads of households) to share their coffee farm with their wives, because it will benefit the family in general if the women's coffee can be sold for more than the average price for coffee of similar grade and size. Now this may seem obvious, but in fact it is truly revolutionary stuff. If the men can be motivated to share their coffee trees with their wives, things start to change in society. The women now have their own financial resources, they can choose what to do with at least some of that money. It empowers them economically, it increases their status in the community, it makes them more independent, it helps to even out the balance of economic power between women and men. It sets an example to others, and spreads the benefits of coffee wider and more sustainably. This is true even within a single family, as the woman has responsibility for the children, but to some extent the man can spend his money how he likes.
I cupped it against various AA, A1 and A2 lots from other nearby coop lots, and found a very distinct, beautiful character in this coffee. The fragrance here has soft floral notes and (a theme throughout the cup) a sweet citrus note. The aroamtic is where the coffee comes to life; a bouquet of orange blossom, slightly winey. The cup fulfills the promise of the aromatics: jasmine and citrus flowers, sweetness, vivid aftertaste, and a remarkaby silky body (although not that heavy). This is still somewhat of a delicate cup, and really requires the right roast to reveal it's true character. My lighter City roasts were baked-tasting, under-developed. It was better with a few days rest, but it never had a very "complete" profile. The sweetness has a sweet brown malt flavor, caramelly, and lingers through the long aftertaste. This is not a powerhouse cup, but roasted and brewed correctly, it is remarkably attractive, with Yirgacheffe and Kenya hints.