Category Archives: Rwanda

Seeing clearly

YT blog eye camp

What, exactly, is an “eye camp”? And what does it have to do with us?

Well, it’s a small part of a big plan to check the eyesight of every person in Rwanda over the age of eight – and to provide glasses to those who need them.

It’s the goal of a charity called Vision for a Nation Foundation, and these temporary eye camps are one of the ways it’s achieving its aim.

And with some funding from Taylors, a two-day eye camp was held at the Gisovu Tea Estate.

It was led by two of the charity’s ophthalmic technicians, who trained a nurse in the Gisovu Health Centre in primary eye care – enough to conduct basic vision assessments and give glasses to patients, now and in the future.

Mutiganda Theophile, who works at the estate, was one of those eye camp patients.

He’s had problems with his vision for 13 years, which gave him headaches when he tried to read and stopped him from writing.

He said he was “very happy” to receive a pair of adjustable glasses, that have enabled him to read and write properly.

In fact, 157 people who work on the estate headed in to the health centre for an assessment over those two days. It emerged that 63 of them needed – and were given – glasses.

It goes to show just how crucial the Vision for a Nation programme is. You can find out more about it here.

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Our Suppliers of the Year

01-02 Supplier of the Year 1517 (1)

Once a year, we invite two of our suppliers over to Harrogate to spend a few days with us. But it’s more than just a social call – in fact, it’s a pretty special occasion: our Supplier of the Year awards.

Now in their third year, these awards recognise the best of our international suppliers and aim to build strong and relationships for the future. We pick one from the world of coffee and one from the world of tea.

This year’s winners are Ajay Kichlu from Chamong in Darjeeling, and Gilbert Gatali from KZ Noir in Rwanda (that’s them above – Ajay on the right, Gilbert on the left).

Ajay, who visited this week, said: “We’re really pleased to be here – delighted and a little taken aback!”

Our head of tea, Ian Brabbin, helped to choose Chamong. He said: “There’s genuine warmth in the relationship, Ajay’s like a friend to us, and they do make the best tea in Darjeeling and some of the best in the world. The service they give us is exceptional and they consistently go over and above our expectations.

And Rick Tingley, the head of coffee at Taylors, helped to choose KZ Noir. He said: “It’s not just about the last year, but the last few years. Before then we didn’t know Gilbert or KZ Noir at all. It’s testament to what you can achieve in such a short space of time – they’ve gone from nothing to producing Rwanda’s first ever Rainforest Alliance certified coffee.

Gilbert said: “We’re really happy to be working with Taylors, for our growth to be sustainable we know we need to build long-term relationships. Achieving Rainforest Alliance certification this year was an historic moment for Rwandan coffee, and we were delighted to be the first and to have partnered with Taylors to do it.”

You can read about last year’s Coffee Supplier of the Year here.

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Win a pack of Lazy Sunday

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There’s not long left before our Lazy Sunday competition closes.

If you’d like to apply for a sample pack of our smooth, easy Lazy Sunday blend, then please head to this page before December 2 and fill in the form.

We’re giving away 20,000 of them – each containing 45g of coffee, the ideal amount for a standard cafetière.

And the reason we’re doing it is to mark one of the biggest projects we’ve ever undertaken.

Together with the UK Government’s Department for International Development, and the Rainforest Alliance, we’ve been working with 8,000 smallholder coffee farmers in Rwanda.

The aim: to teach smarter, environmentally sound farming methods which can help them earn more from their land. And 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.

You can find out much more, and apply for a sample, right here.

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Rwanda’s first Rainforest Alliance coffee

It’s Follow the Frog Week, an annual event which celebrates and promotes the work of the Rainforest Alliance. And we’ve got a great story to share…

The Rainforest Alliance (RA) helps to improve the quality of coffee growing and the conditions in which it’s grown.

But though it works around the world, no coffee suppliers in Rwanda have ever gained RA certification – that’s the green frog logo you’ll see displayed on most of our coffee packs.

Last month, however, that all changed, when a company named KZ Noir became the first RA certified Rwandan supplier.

It’s a huge milestone, and we’re extremely proud to say that we’ve played a part in it. We’ve been working closely with KZ Noir as part of a big project with the RA and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers).

Jean-Marie from the RA – that’s him in the picture above – has been teaching KZ Noir’s coffee farmers some of the cornerstones of RA certification: methods of soil protection, wildlife and water conservation and tree-planting.

He said: “It is very important for Rwanda, in a country where there is very little cultivation land, to try and increase the productivity per hectare. And we can’t do this without working with nature – which is to say the soil.

“We need to take account of soil protection and soil restoration so that the soil is always fertile enough to produce more and more and never less.

“We say at Rainforest Alliance that we need to use the soil as if we borrowed it from our children, in order to pass on a soil capable of feeding future generations.

“It is very important for the farmers to understand that we’re not here to impose things on them but rather we’re here to work together with them in order to build upon their knowledge.”

We’re planning a special origin coffee which will use KZ Noir’s beans, and we already use them in two of our most popular blends: Lazy Sunday and Rich Italian.

You can read more about our work in Rwanda here. And find out more about the Rainforest Alliance here.

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Tasting coffee for the first time

You might find this amazing, but some of the people who help produce coffee have never tasted the finished drink.

So, this was one of the highlights of the work we’re doing in Rwanda with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers).

It’s the moment some of the people who pick the coffee cherries tried coffee for the first time – and the chap you can hear speaking is Gilbert Gatali, who runs Rwandan coffee supplier KZ Noir.

There are more blogs posts and videeos about our work in Rwanda here.

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Why Rwanda?

If you’ve read any our our blog posts in the last couple of months, you’ll hopefully have come across some of the work we’re doing in Rwanda, where we’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers).

One of the Rwandan coffee suppliers we are working with on Rainforest Alliance certification is KZ Noir.

The managing director is a fascinating chap named Gilbert Gatali. Originally Rwandan, he was born a refugee in Kenya after his parents fled the Rwandan genocide in 1994. He went on to study International Development and Business in Canada before returning to his home country later in life, where he believes the coffee industry may be a key to helping Rwanda redevelop.

We’ve made a short video about KZ Noir, which you can view above. It also features Simon Hotchkin, our sustainability manager, who gives a bit of background about why Rwanda is close to our heart.

He says: “It’s about securing sources of the quality of coffee that we need well into the future, and doing that in such a way that it secures the feature of all the people that are in the chain supplying us with the product.

“Taylors have a long association with Rwanda. It produces particularly great quality of the type that we need.”

You can find out more about our work in Rwanda here.

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Meet the Rwanda shift

On Monday night, we launched a brand new production shift – we know that might not sound exciting to you. But seriously, it’s a huge deal for us.

The shifts at our factory haven’t changed for 20 years. There are two of them, named India and Kenya, and they make sure we’re roasting, blending and packing coffee from 6am to 10pm every weekday.

To date, that’s been plenty to ensure we’re making enough for our customers – but new people keep falling for our coffee (and, for that matter, the teas we make too).

So we’ve been thinking about new ways of working in our factory, and we’ve created the Rwanda shift – an overnight shift made up of 13 Taylors staff.

“We are all quite relaxed individuals who enjoy working together,” said Stuart Carr, a production technician on the shift.

“We have a good mix of characters that gives a good balance to the shift.”

At the moment the team is making tea products, but it’s ultimately going to mean we can make more coffee too.

And our staff chose the name Rwanda because that country is a big part of our future.

It has huge potential as a coffee producing nation, and we’re investing a lot of work in helping the industry there to grow in a responsible and sustainable way (you can read all about our project in Rwanda here).

We’ve invested the same kind of work in the shift. It’s a big change, so we’ve put a ton of work into making sure our Rwanda staff are happy, supported and connected to everyone else at Taylors.

We hope you’ll join us in wishing them luck.

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“I have started planting trees now…”

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

This is Felica – she has six children and owns 159 coffee trees. Felica may be working alone since she lost her husband to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 but her hard work and her good standing in the community have given her the opportunity to become a lead farmer.

This means that she trains her co-farmers in Rainforest Alliance techniques that will help them all to work more sustainably and produce even better coffee in the process.

“I am happy and so proud to be a lead farmer – I do my best to do it properly. To be a lead farmer one has to be honest and well considered in the community, fulfil responsibilities and provide good communication.

“The most interesting part of the Rainforest Alliance scheme is conservation and tree planting – because trees provide shade and I know shade enhances the coffee beans. Trees can also help to hold soil and tree leaves make mulch. I have started planting trees now.

“I feel that I will become more successful from the scheme as my yields will increase as will my quality.

“To know that Rwandan coffee is so well appreciated is good news for me and I feel a responsibility to keep up the good work and improve more.”

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Coffee’s role in redeveloping Rwanda

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

This is Gilbert. He manages KZ Noir – one of the coffee suppliers we are working with in Rwanda on Rainforest Alliance certification so that we can purchase their coffee.

Gilbert is originally Rwandan but, born a refugee in Kenya and raised in Canada, he never had the opportunity to discover his home country until later in life. Through a background and training in International Development and Business, Gilbert felt that he may have something to offer a country that was going through its own redevelopment after the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

“But more than that,” he says. “I felt like Rwanda had a lot to offer me.”

“If you look at Rwanda today, what it’s managed to achieve in such a short time, there’s just so much energy and just so much zeal in wanting to make things better. To be a part of that and see that happening… to actually see the transformation is riveting.

“It gets you excited and pumped and full of energy to want to continue because you actually see the transformation happening… but more than that, you can be a part of that transformation.”

Now Gilbert feels that he can be a part of this redevelopment through coffee and his passion for the great coffee has grown as he sees the impact that is has on people behind the beans.

“There’s so much about coffee that is great…that has me very interested in it. A big component for me is the people. As you can see, starting from cherry picking all the way to green hand sorting, for me, coffee is almost like a commodity of people.

“There are hands touching that coffee at every single stage and when you’re drinking that cup of coffee and you understand all the processes that have gone into it, it’s almost like you’re tasting so many different people of different living standards that have all gone into creating this one cup of coffee that you’re enjoying.

“Beyond that, not only the individuals but more so the impact it has on people’s lives. If a farmer is able to grow coffee, harvest coffee, and make a living out of coffee, it’s very important for me and if I can be a part of that chain at any level, then I feel like I’ve contributed towards developing myself but also contributing to developing other people’s lives.”

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