Gasharu Coffee is another example of African ownership throughout the supply chain.
Rumenerangabo family owns a beautifully designed farm and two washing stations on the Lake Kivu shores in southwest Rwanda. They grow their own coffee and source cherries from 1650 smallholders in the region. Collected cherries are processed in their own washing station and then exported/imported by the family business Umuko Coffee.
Family farm was established in 1976 and two ethnic conflicts left their marks in the farm’s history. Celestine Rumenerangabo lost his father when he was an infant during the Hutus attacks on Tutsis in 1959. When he was 17 years old, he started up Gasharu farm by planting 380 coffee trees in his mother’s plot. He expanded the family business to source from neighboring growers until 1994 when the family lost everything during the Rwandan genocide and had to flee the country.
Rumenerangabo family returned home 4 years later, starting everything from scratch. By 2006, they were able to establish their own washing station, Birembo Coffee Station to process their own coffees. 2000s was a turning point for Rwandan coffee industry. Following the genocide, the western institutions were very motivated to help Rwanda in its recovery efforts. Coffee industry was one of the first to be addressed by USAID projects. Washing stations were modernized and Rwandan government
provided farmers with technical advice to increase their yield and quality. These efforts have cemented Rwanda’s place among highly praised coffee origins. However, the recognition has come at the expense of many independently owned washing stations. Rwandan coffee began to draw multinational importers’ attention and they started to establish or buy their own washing stations. This change of dynamics pushed many family-owned washing stations out of business since they didn’t have the financial capacity to compete with the new, large players. Birembo Coffee Station was one of them. Rumenerangabo family once again lost their business, this time to the new
market dynamics. However, the family did not give up. With support from their two sons, Marie and Celestine Rumenerangabo brought the family business back to life in 2014. Now, Gasharu Coffee owns two washing stations and grows its own coffee and sources cherries from neighboring smallholders to process and export their coffee under Umuko Coffee.
Long story short, Gasharu Coffee is a fine example of African resilience. Gasharu coffee farm and washing station are located on the shores of Lake Kivu and a stone’s throw from Rwanda Nyungwe National Park. The park is one of the largest montane and best-preserved montane rainforests in Central Africa and an important element of the region’s terroir. As soon as picked cherries arrive at the washing stations, they are floated and pulped with a disc pulper. Then, parchment coffee goes into a dry fermentation for 12 to 14 hours before mucilage is washed off. Beans are floated to be separated into three grades by their density, which is a good indicator of ripeness.
Graded coffee is hand-sorted and moved to raised drying beds with a mesh bottom, allowing for more circulation of air. The coffee is air and sun-dried between 9 am and 3 pm depending on the sun’s intensity. The drying process takes 14 to 20 days. When ready, beans are stored in their parchment until they start their intercontinental journey. This lot consists of Grade A coffee only.