Drinking coffee to change lives: a project of Rwanda’s QuestionCoffee


Have you wondered how a cup of coffee or tea can improve or even change lives of hardworking women farmers? This is the case of a project undertaken by Sustainable Growers, a non-profit public corporation based in Rwanda who has taken upon itself to not only encourage the coffee culture in Rwanda but also offer opportunities to women farmers who grow coffee for a living.

In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Sustainable Harvest® Coffee Importers partnered to create Sustainable Growers, a non-profit committed to transforming the lives of women coffee farmers from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo through training and access to international coffee buyers. Question Coffee was created by Sustainable Growers to provide a retail market outlet for the women’s coffee, a training space for farmers and coffee professionals, and a chance for visitors to discover some of the world’s best coffee.

During my visit to Rwanda along with two of my colleague media professionals from South Africa on the invitation of the Rwanda Convention Bureau, we had the privilege to smell, slurp and savor some of the world’s best coffee and tea in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali.

Even as a coffee addict who has some decent knowledge about the product, I was completely schooled after the 2-hour session. To ensure that you really have understood the whole process you will be given checklist for you to evaluate and give feedback on the type of coffee, how it taste, its acidity level, aroma among others.

On our itinerary was the time to experience how coffee is cultivated and brewed and taken through a master class to learn the processes of it at the #QuestionCoffee Coffee Centre in Kigali.
Kigali, capital of Rwanda has been known in recent times by many as the African model city where cleanliness and environmental awareness is on top of the citizens’ agenda. Just to mention a few of these are the car free days where basically no one drives and instead bicycle and walking and jogging is the order, fostering a healthy lifestyle for its people.

A group undergoing coffee masterclass at the Question coffee in Kigali

Little is known about its huge coffee and tea production even though the country does not necessarily have a coffee culture. The #QuestionCoffee project aims to not only encourage local production and but also drive coffee lovers to the country.

The #QuestionCoffee Centre is a state-of-the-art specialty coffee experience located in Kigali. They welcome everyone in search of an amazing cup of coffee, whether they’d like to enjoy it in their spacious cafe or take it to go.

There are over 100 coffee species, however the two main ones that are widely produced and sold are: Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta.

Specialty Coffee Master Class
For those interested in an immersive, one of-a-kind coffee experience, the coffee shop offer an intriguing master class of the coffee supply chain that doesn’t require taking a step beyond the cafe. Here’s what you can expect to experience during the class:

The class starts where coffee transforms from a seed into a fruit-bearing tree—the farm. The cafe features a coffee thriving garden that is representative of a classic Rwandan coffee farm, where they’ll explain the steps that go into coffee agronomy and harvesting. After you’ve learned about coffee agronomy, harvested ripe cherries, and tasted the sweet coffee fruit, you’ll de-pulp your harvest and learn how it’s processed in order to be ready for roasting.

Roasting and Cupping
Roasting is a delicate step in the production process, and requires immense attention to detail to elicit the best flavors from the beans. The roast master will explain the process and how they create the perfect roast curve for each individual coffee sourced. Then, you’ll roast up your very own batch with guidance from their roasting experts. Lastly, you’ll enjoy a coffee “cupping” (tasting) and, talk about what to look for when sourcing coffee and how different roast profiles impact taste.

Unlike wine, coffee can’t be uncorked and enjoyed at the ready. The crucial last step is brewing, and it requires great care in order to bring forth the best flavors created during the growing, processing, and roasting production steps. The cafe’s expert baristas, who have worked in cafes as far as away as San Francisco, California, will educate you about the technicalities of brewing coffee, what attributes they look for in the final cup, and guide you through pulling espresso shots, crafting latte art, and preparing coffee with different brewing methods.

Cooperative Tours
For those in search of a farm tour in Rwanda’s coffee lands, Question Coffee offer day-trips out to coffee cooperatives. While on these trips you’ll meet farmers and see coffee production first-hand, from farmer’s plots to the washing station and drying tables.

Where does Question Coffee come from?
Question Coffee sources exceptional coffees from farmers throughout Rwanda, honouring their dedication through expert roasting and brewing techniques. By working with farmers in-country, they are able to have unparalleled insight into their farming practices and livelihoods, and use this proximity to the source to elevate coffee quality and sustainability impact.

Different style
Aside sitting down to have coffee or tea the environment where Question Coffee operates is the main draw for its numerous customers. The cafe is well structured for mini meetings and well fitted with workstation arena with functioning WiFi. The brick style inside decor adds a touch which makes it difficult to leave the place. Again it defies the nagging problem of packaging in Africa

The Rwanda Convention Bureau believes places like this can complement and offer their targeted conference delegates to Kigali the opportunity to patronize the Rwandan coffee and also drink to change lives.

The profit generated from the sale of coffee is reinvested in the farmers (women) in a form of farming trainings implemented by Sustainable Growers training staff.

On your next trip to Rwanda, you need to stop over at Question Coffee to experience something unique.

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