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Mill: Ubumwe Washing Station
Owner: Buf Coffee Company
Region: Kamoyni District, Southern Province
Varietal: Red Bourbon
Altitude: 1550 - 1700 masl
Ubumwe is a coffee washing station in the Kamonyi District of Southern Rwanda that is owned and managed by the famed Buf Coffee company. Founded by the pioneering Epiphanie Mukashyaka in 2000, Buf Coffee is now internationally recognised for its exceptional coffees and socially responsible practices.
Buf’s commitment to progressing the social, educational, and financial standing of rural, coffee-farming communities has been hugely influential for many members of the specialty coffee industry, both in Rwanda and beyond. Ubumwe’s first year of operation was in 2017, and the property includes Buf’s recently built dry mill, which is used to process all coffee produced by the company. This added control during the milling and preparation of the coffee allows for more micro-lot separation and experimentation.
The property also includes a cupping lab facility, which ensures feedback provided during quality control is given to station workers in a more direct manner. Ubumwe is managed by Edoine Mugisha, who used to head operations at Nyarusiza, another washing station owned by Buf.
- The ripe cherries are picked by hand and then delivered to the washing station either on foot, by bike, or by trucks that collect cherries from various pick-up points in the area.
- Before being pulped, the cherries are deposited into flotation tanks, where a net is used to skim off the floaters (less dense, lower grade cherries). The heavier cherries are then pulped the same day using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.
- The beans (in parchment) are then dry-fermented (in a tank with no added water) overnight for 8–12 hours. They are then sorted again using grading channels; water is sent through the channels and the lighter (i.e. lower grade) beans are washed to the bottom, while the heavier cherries remain at the top of the channel.
- The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours, before being moved to pre-drying beds where they are intensively sorted for around six hours. This step is always done while the beans are still damp because the green (unripe) beans are easier to see. It is also always done in the shade to protect the beans from direct sunlight (which they have found helps to keep the parchment intact and therefore protects the bean better).
- The sorted beans are finally moved onto raised African drying beds in the direct sun to dry slowly over 10–20 days. During this time the coffee is sorted carefully for defects and turned regularly to ensure the coffee dries evenly. It is also covered in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.
- Once at 11–12% humidity, the coffee (still in its parchment) is stored in the washing station’s warehouse in carefully labelled lots until it is ready for export. The coffee is then dry milled onsite. Here the parchment is removed, and the beans are sorted again by hand and using machinery to remove any physical defects. This is done under the watchful eye of Edouine Mugisha, who has worked with Buf since 2011. Having control over the milling of the coffee means that Buf has greater control over the quality of sorting and processing from cherry delivery right through to export.
Words, Photos & Sourced by Melbourne Coffee Merchants.