Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TREAT! Today is the Big Day in Mushubati, Rwanda

October 31, 2017
Leaders of Ejo Heza, convening the 2017 assembly.
Today was the BIG DAY in the mountain village of Mushubati that overlooks Lake Kivu. It was the day of the Ejo Heza General Assembly. Ejo Heza is the name of the cooperative of about 300 women from which Artisan Coffee has been buying coffee for two years now, it means "bright tomorrow." They are a "sub-group" of the larger and well-established KOPAKAMA cooperative with about 700 members. The general assembly is the annual meeting where the leadership gives reports about the past year and distributes the "second payment" to members. They receive the premiums they have earned on coffee sold to buyers (like Artisan) who specify an amount per KG green coffee to go to the farmer. Since the cooperative tracks how many kilograms of cherry each woman brings to the washing station, they are able to make the conversions (dollars to RWF, KG green to KG cherry) and pay the women fairly, each according to how much she brought.

Accounting systems are "basic" there, so we cannot share numbers to day of exactly how much each woman received. But documentation is part of the contract and it will be coming soon. Meanwhile, today, Carpe Diem! While you host some "trick-or-treat" visitors this evening, know that many families in this mountainous region of Rwanda are so proud and happy to be coffee farmers today. They have received more than a treat, they have received much hope for a bright tomorrow, and they are dancing! See video below:

Artisan Coffee Imports is taking requests for arrival samples. Click here to request yours! Coffee is due in to Continental Terminals Nov. 13 -17. Available at the Annex in Oakland, CA, first week of December.

Frederic HAKIZIMANA - washing station manager, addresses the general assembly.

Ejo Heza members picking coffee in their community plot.
View of Lake Kivu from Mushubati.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Paying Women Coffee Producers Their "Due"

25. September 2017
Therese UWIMANA - President of Ejo Heza

At Artisan Coffee Imports we're proud to celebrate International Coffee Day on September 29, with the announce- ment of a ground-breaking partnership with a women's cooperative in Rwanda - the Ejo Heza cooperative (a group under the umbrella of KOPAKAMA) in Rutsiro, Western Province.

This 2017 harvest year, Artisan Coffee Imports signed a contract with the cooperative, co-signed by Therese UMWIMANA, the president of Ejo Heza, agreeing to pay a 30 cent premium on each kilogram of green coffee Artisan purchases (= 13.6 cents/lb. green coffee). This amount of money will be awarded to all the women of the Ejo Heza group on top of the second payment all the members of the KOPAKAMA cooperative receive. The premiums will be awarded at Ejo Heza's general assembly held every year in October.

Ruth Ann Church, Artisan's president and "chief relationship officer", still remembers the day in early May 2017 when she negotiated this contract (through a translator) with Ms. UWIMANA and Frederic HAKIZIMANA, the director of the KOPAKAMA washing station. "I'm sure it's the first time any Westerner had requested Therese to be present in a business meeting to negotiate contract terms," Church says. "The discussion got deep into the tiny details of dollars per KG and Rwandan franc per lb. parchment. I remember being concerned for Therese, whose daughter was very ill and Therese herself looked sick with worry. She had to leave her baby with a friend to come meet us. But she brightened up when we put the numbers into terms she knew very well."

"This will result in paying you and the Ejo Heza women 40 RWF/KG cherry," Church explained when she finally had enough figures in her spreadsheet to make the calculation.  UWIMANA's eyes grew wide. The price per kilogram of cherry in Rwanda this season was around 270 RWF/KG. A common premium for cherry in Rwanda is 22 RWF/KG cherry (8% of base price), and only about 20% of farmers in Rwanda ever see any premium at all. So not only is Artisan re-enforcing KOPAKAMA's "best practice" of paying a premium, Artisan is paying the women close to double what many farmers receive as a second payment.

"I could see some of the care and concern melt away from Therese's face when I told her that number,"  Church says. "It was wonderful to see it replaced with her beautiful smile!"

For samples of this amazing coffee, contact Artisan Coffee Imports via their contact page, or call seven-three-four, 717-6278.

Ruth Ann Church with Therese and Olive & beautiful Rwandan horizon!
Coffee cherry picked by Therese

Beatrice, Olive and Therese - leaders of Ejo Heza

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Selection of delicious new crop Rwandan!

19. September, 2017
September - pre-shipment samples in Michigan.
We cupped pre-shipment samples today of the incoming crop of Rwanda Ejo Heza coffee from KOPAKAMA cooperative, Rutsiro district, in western Rwanda. [See blog posts here to learn more about this cooperative.] The cups were good! Samples approved! Excited to be able to share samples of these delicious cups of apricot, cedar, rose-hip tea and clove-spiced aftertaste with roasters, soon!

The plots of coffee come from along Lake Kivu. We cupped two types, some from the Mushubati washing station and grown by the Ejo Heza women's cooperative, and others from the Nyagatari washing station -- both of these belong to the KOPAKAMA cooperative which has a total of about 700 members. The Ejo Heza women are about 300 total.

Back in June 2017, when Ruth Ann was in Kigali, she cupped several coffees from KOPAKAMA and other cooperatives, and selected the Ejo Heza Lot B and the Nyagatari for import. The sweet taste of pineapple, mango and orange mixed with clove were delightful! Scored at least an 86. That was a fun day at the wonderful Starbucks lab in Kigali. For those of you who don't know, Starbucks offers the coffee industry in Rwanda (all of East Africa, really) a wonderful resource by fully staffing an excellent lab in Rwanda's capital city, Kigali. They regularly host cuppings and meetings for all types of coffee companies, even direct competitors. Kudos to Starbucks!

That was the easy part! The contracting, financing and shipping arrangements take months of international coordination after the initial coffee selection. Finally, three and half months later, the pre-shipment samples arrived and I was able to cup them today. In another two months (end of November), coffee should be at the port in New Jersey. Some of it will be shipped to the Annex in Oakland, CA.

We are bringing in 80 bags of the KOPAKAMA Ejo Heza Lot B for spot sales. Call to get YOUR NAME on the list for arrival samples today! 734-717-6278.
June 2017 - Starbucks cupping lab - Kigali, Rwanda

June 2017 - Starbucks lab staff are the best!

Ruth Ann and Olivier GASHEMA of Misozi Coffee - Q grading samples.

Friday, February 24, 2017

All Female Value Chain Creates Delicious Cup of "Jane"

Feb. 24, 2017
Earlier this month Espresso Elevado, a micro-roaster in Plymouth, MI, brought a new Rwanda roasted coffee to its shelves. This coffee is labeled to highlight the women's cooperative that grew the coffee -- the Ejo Heza group of the KOPAKAMA cooperative, Rutsiro district of the Western province of Rwanda. About 300 women of the 775 total members formed their "sub-cooperative" in 2011.
Women of Ejo Heza with their coffee trees - Bernice, Therese and Olive (L to R).
Upon closer inspection, this coffee goes a few steps further than "just" being sourced from female coffee producers. The coffee was imported by woman-owned Artisan Coffee Imports and roasted by woman-owned Espresso Elevado, making it a very unique "all-female-value-chain" coffee.

The coffee tastes great in the cup. With Espresso Elevado's roast, we find the flavor complex with sugar plum and pink lemonade fragrance, maple syrup, winey, plum aroma. After the break, flavor has wine and berry, vanilla, roasted almond, butter and clove with aftertaste of butterscotch and hints of orange. Great smooth body with the familiar Rwandan ‘sparkle’ of acidity.

Teresa Pilarz - Founder & Chief Caffeinator of Espresso Elevado Espresso Elevado
 Roasting notes from Teresa:  
The first time roasting any new coffee is always somewhat of a shot in the dark.  I noticed this Rwandan seemed to lose a lot of heat after first crack began.  Our goal was to maintain a gradually decreasing rate of rise and prevent any heat spikes during the latter part of the roast. In working with this bean, we’ve figured out how to keep it quite light-roasted and still reach a solid 20% roast development.  This brings out the sparkling acidity while also allowing the complex flavor profile to shine through with hints of dried fruit, exotic spice, and butterscotch sweetness

If you'd like to purchase a bag, you'll find Espresso Elevado near the "town square" of Plymouth, MI at 606 S. Main St.  Retailing at $16/12 oz. bag you can also get a fresh pour over of Rwanda Ejo Heza.
Ruth Ann Church - Founder - Importer at Artisan Coffee Imports (also Chief De-caffeinator!)
 Sourcing notes from Ruth Ann: 

  • This Rwandan coffee is from Ejo Heza, a women’s cooperative that is a sub-group of the larger KOPAKAMA cooperative. Located in the Rutsiro district of western Rwanda, there is a fantastic view of Lake Kivu from the washing station.
  • I was able to visit them several times while I lived in Rwanda, Nov. 2015 – Aug. 2016.
  • The washing station is recognized by others and me as one of the better-managed ones. They have processes in place to ensure quality and I observed a well-managed washing station staff.
  • The Ejo Heza women receive a lot of agronomist support and other training from KOPAKAMA. For example, one of the reasons I met them is because I was giving a leadership and management training to the cooperative ("Lean at Origin" training). The president and two others from Ejo Heza were invited to be in this training. In other words, there is evidence of lots of inclusion for the women of this coop.
  • The women asked me to see their trees and some of the experiments they are doing with weeding and mulching to lower their costs. (See blogpost) I was very impressed. These women are running experiments with control plots on growing techniques! Their objective is to lower their costs while maintaining the high quality coffee production that earns them a higher price than low grade coffees.
What do the women do with their “bonus” from coffee? The KOPAKAMA cooperative helped them start a microcredit savings and lending group a year ago (Jan. 2016). It is well-proven in development literature that microcredit groups are effective vehicles to enable savings and small loans in low-income rural areas. See this blog post for two stories from women of the Ejo Heza group, sharing what microcredit group has helped them accomplish. 
Therese and Olive - Leaders of the Ejo Heza group of women producers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Roast-to-Order "and Now" a Reality in Detroit

February 21, 2017
Great to see the just-in-time roast-to-order concept arrive in Detroit, Michigan! A first in the country?

It is certainly good news, assuming the kind folks at New Order Coffee on Woodward are also offering high-end decaffeinated beans. That would enable a quality roast of a quality bean, even for decaf!!!

And if the good folks at New Order Coffee aren't sure where to find high-quality decaffeinated green, we hope they'll give us a call. Artisan Coffee Imports, seven-three-four-717-6278.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rwanda Ejo Heza Cup Profile from a Roaster

Ejo Heza has Stand Out Flavor in the Cup!
This is the cup profile Artisan received from a well-respected roaster in the Bay Area:

Moisture: 10.9%
Water Activity: .58
1. Fragrance: pleasant dark raw sugar/molasses, jam, plum, prune
2. Aroma: dark chocolate, multi-sweetness
3. Flavor: sugar-browning, spice and jammy sweetness, prunes and raisins
4. Aftertaste: pleasant lemon and Brazil nut
5. Acidity: bright, lemony
6. Body: full, creamy
7. Balance: good
8. Sweet: good
9. Clean cup: good
10. Overall: 85.5
Brewed on V60 – flavor held well.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A "look Inside" at the Swiss Water Plant - Vancouver, BC

October 22, 2016
Yesterday I had the great honor to have a personalized tour of the Swiss Water plant. After checking out Roscanini and 49th Parallel roasters in the Vancouver area in the morning, I was already stoked about the high quality of coffee (decaf even) that folks in the area seem to demand. It's no wonder that Swiss Water chose to locate their North American headquarters in this beautiful city -- and conveniently right next to the elevated train-line, the SkyTrain. (They like to boast they are the only decaffeination plant with their own SkyTrain station!)

Barry Close, VP Operations and Andrea Piccolo, Marketing, were wonderful hosts. We started in the lab and Mike Strumpf's office space. Barry began the tour explaining Swiss Water's "conversion to full commitment to quality" back in 2007 - almost 10 years ago. Barry was hired that year (from the paper industry) to bring his lean management knowledge and implement "21st century" process control and waste elimination methods. I saw many signs that they have implemented very well.

After the tour I was treated to a cupping in the lab with the famous Mike Strumpf! It was a mock-evaluation, like the ones they do after every production run at SWDCC. They cup the decaffeinated coffee vs. the "pre-decaf" and evaluate the "damage-done" so-to-speak. The data collected from these sessions is used by Barry to continuously tweak and improve the processes, to minimize the damage.

As impressive as the plant tour and cupping lab experiences were, I think Andrea saved the best for last, because "last" was the marketing presentation. Sitting in a conference room is not exciting, but the depth of information Swiss Water has on their customer base is awesome. They are connecting customer (consumer and roaster) demand to technology needs, and process requirements in their plant. Barry demonstrated how they are using his chemistry and process knowledge on a microscopic level to improve the quality of finished decaf beans.

Thank you, Swiss Water, for such an enjoyable and educational tour!
Burnaby, BC visitor!

Barry Close, VP Operations & Andrea Piccolo, Marketing
 - six barrel sample roaster in background.

Photos from the plant tour:

Great care is taken to monitor moisture levels.

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
- the machine that tests the level of caffeine.
"Flight deck" for continuous quality monitoring and control throughout the plant.

Photos from the cupping session:

Mike has the best map of Brazil I've seen. Swiss water knows where to find good coffee!