Saturday, September 15, 2007

Specialty Coffee Names Due Next Year

13 September 2007
Posted to the web 13 September 2007 by

Major coffee producing countries such as Ethiopia and Brazil have coffee brand names that Rwanda had not developed yet. Now the government coffee agency, the US aid agency and a local university are targeting to have the first specialty brand name 'KIVU' out on the market very soon, RNA reports.

"I'm sure the first one to emerge will be KIVU since Rwandan coffees coming from the Kivu Lake region are very unique, complex and exceptional in flavor profile and balance", said Dr. Tim Schilling, director of the US government funded project - SPREAD that has been working with thousands local coffee growers.

Ethiopia has specialty brand names such as 'Sidama' and 'Yirgachefe' that have been at the centre of controversy between the Ethiopian government on the one hand with coffee giant Starbucks and the US government - on the other.

Dr. Schilling told RNA that OCIR CAFE, the National University of Rwanda and the SPREAD project will be producing a Coffee Appellation scheme for Rwanda this year based on taste data collected on over 140 Rwandan coffees.

"We will correlate the taste profiles of Rwandan coffees with Rwandan geographic data like altitude, soil types, rainfall.", said Schilling. Then we will develop an Appellation Map showing the different unique taste profiles of Rwandan coffees by region in Rwanda, he added.

$55 for a kilo!

He said this will lead to international Specialty Brand names like Sidama, Yirgachefe, Harar and many more. "For us (Rwanda) it will be like, KIVU, GANKENKE, HUYE, BUKONYA, BICUMBI." Schilling explained.

Rwanda's reputation as a producer of top-quality specialty coffee took another leap with the results of its first-ever Golden Cup national competition held August 28-31.

Coffee may be selling internationally at less than $30 a kilo but the competition rated a Coffee from the north region-based SDL Muyongwe washing station at a record $55 for the same quantity.

American companies Intelligentsia Coffee and Stumptown Coffee bought the coffee at that price. Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee has been selling ZIRIKANA coffee from Northern Rwanda on its shelves.

A new cupping laboratory, a facility for assessing coffee taste and quality in Southern Rwanda, served as the venue for the 2007 Rwandan Golden Cup. An international jury of 18 coffee experts scored the coffees using a strict protocol, eliminating coffees with the lowest scores until only 10 coffees remained.

Five of the 10 winning coffees earned a score of at least 90 out of 100 for quality and taste as evaluated by the jury. These five coffees also received the competition's presidential award.

The coffees were evaluated for taste and quality by highly trained national and international juries. The entire process was monitored by consulting firm - Ernst & Young - in order to ensure fairness and transparency.

Community Coffee, Groundwork Coffee, Thousand Hills Coffee, Counter Culture Coffee, Howell Select Coffees, Union Coffee Roasters (London), Intelligentsia Coffee, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Starbucks Coffee are among the approximately 30 wholesale roasters now buying Rwandan coffees.

Independence soon

The US aid agency may have invest $16 million to put the Rwandan coffee sector into shape but Dr. Schilling says a time when local growers will be working independently is "approaching very rapidly". USAID/SPREAD will transform itself into a completely Rwandan project in 2009, he said.

Local companies like RWASHOSCCO, RFCA, HORIZON, MISOZI, and others have sprung up to assist the grower groups promote, market, and export the Specialty Coffees.

"Scores of relationships between Rwandan coffee producers and US or European coffee companies have been established and it is these business relations that will continue with no need of 'expatriate' assistance to make them happen or to keep them going", said Schilling.

The American expert says Rwandans will grow the specialty coffee sector from about $5 million in total foreign exchange earnings today to well over $25 million by 2011.

"The ability of Rwandans to know and understand their own coffees, their taste profiles, and the true market value of their coffees is Paramount to Rwanda's success so far and will remain Paramount as Rwanda continues its climb to the top of the International Specialty Coffee Industry as a prized, world class coffee that apologizes to no body", he said.

There are 17 wholesale and 9 retail roasters from the US, Canada, Britain and The Netherlands that are importing Rwandan coffees. There are also 9 companies that import green coffee beans straight from farmers.

Dr. Schilling says the list is not exhaustive but largely represents most of the companies that have direct relationships with local companies. (End)

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