Coffee's Role in Rwanda

Only about the size of the US State of Maryland, Rwanda is one of the smallest and most densely populated countries in Africa. With approximately 90% of Rwanda’s 11 million inhabitants working in agriculture, the countries many mountains and hills seem endlessly terraced and are intensively cultivated.

Introduced by German missionaries in 1904, coffee production started to ramp up in the 1930s under Belgian rule. Coffee has been the primary source of income since then, with more than 400,000 small-scale farmers relying on it for their livelihoods. These farms are extremely small, with “coffee gardens” of about 150 trees each. As part of the government’s recovery efforts following the genocide of 1994, private central washing stations started opening in 2001. Today there are more than 330 washing stations throughout the country. The growth of these washing stations has increased quality considerably, prompting at least a 40% premium to Rwanda’s export value.

Regions & Cup Profile

Coffee is grown in some quantity throughout many parts of the country, but most production can be found in the West Province along Lake Kivu. Almost all the coffee grown in Rwanda is bourbon or a variant of bourbon and this is strictly enforced through government regulations. The flavor profile of Rwandan coffee, like much coffee in Central Africa, is characterized by crisp, bright acidity, and complex flavors of both fresh and dried fruit.

Harvest Period

February – July

Annual Productivity

280,000 bags

Genetic Varieties

Red Bourbon

Growing Regions

West Province along Lake Kivu, South Province, East Province, North Province