The fertile mountains of Rwanda produce some of the finest coffee in the world. Rich soil, abundant rainfall and high altitudes make for ideal growing conditions.
The country’s coffee industry is based not on large plantations, but smallholder farmers. There are over 400,000 of these farmers, and each of their incomes typically relies on a small area of trees.
At Taylors of Harrogate, we’re committed to using nothing but 100% independently certified coffee across our entire range. So we have been looking for new sources of East African Arabica coffee to meet our growing needs – but when we looked to the beautiful coffees of Rwanda, certified suppliers were hard to find.
The country has been rebuilding since 1994, when many Rwandans lost their lives in a genocide. It left a very steep path to recovery and redevelopment.
There’s a UK Government fund which provides help. Overseen by the Department for International Development, it’s called FRICH – the Food Industry Retail Challenge Fund – and its aim is to support African farmers by developing European trade links. To do this, it partners with companies which are keen to invest in developing countries.
That’s where we come in.
We’ve already done a lot of work with the Rainforest Alliance, helping a lot of our suppliers to reach certification. So working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH, we have extended this work to the coffee sector in Rwanda. The goal of the project was to work with 8,000 of these smallholder farmers to enable them to manage their coffee farms in a way that improves crop quality and yield – and to look after the environment to ensure coffee farming is maintained in future.
That means changes to farming practices, which at first glance can seem small. Things like planting shade trees between coffee plants, using manure and coffee cherry pulp instead of chemical fertiliser, and using mulching and terracing techniques to make sure the topsoil is not washed away.
But these simple methods make an immense difference. Not only can they make for better quality coffee, they can also dramatically increase the amount which grows – and that means a better livelihood for the farmers. And the sustainable approach to the environment helps to safeguard for the future, and provide some ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Last August, the project reached a huge milestone. Coffee supplier KZ Noir – which processes the beans grown by many of those farmers – became officially certified. It’s the first coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms in Rwanda.
Because of this work, we’ve guaranteed them a premium which is greater than the market price. It’s not pure altruism. It’s more sustainable than that – a strong, invested relationship of mutual benefit, which means we know we’ll be guaranteed the pick of the crop.
That’s why you should be excited about our Rwanda coffee. It’s a remarkable coffee, even without the back story: a complex, elegant, balance medium roast with sweet berry tones, crisp acidity and a lingering butter toffee finish.
It launched in February, and you can find it in Tesco and Morrisons.