Producer Deep Dive - Rwanda
Brendan Adams started Semilla Coffee in 2019 with the goal of helping small coffee producers get into specialty coffee. He sourced this coffee through Baho, a Rwandan exporting company. Here is the story of how they met and how Baho is working to improve coffee growing in Rwanda.
“I met Emmanual Baho, owner of Baho Coffee Exports in 2018. We actually first met on Instagram and then just started talking via Whatsapp, where I learned more about him and the work he was doing in Rwanda.
“Baho is the only Rwandese-born exporter that exists in the country, so I was really excited to work with him. In Rwanda, you have a lot of people managing washing stations or exporters buying and selling coffee, but never the ones who manage the entire structure. These facilities are often run by Rwandese people but owned by European entities. Even to this day, 60-80% of the coffee industry in Rwanda is owned by multinationals.
“To me, the coffee in Rwanda lacks access to specialty, and it’s still very hard to find in North America. When you do find it, the coffee often has generic profiles, and there’s little understanding of what the country is like, what the different growing regions are like, and what the reality is for coffee growing in the country.
“So I was really excited to be working with Baho. From day one, he really had this desire to grow and learn and expand the Rwandese market. We usually work one-on-one with producers (in Honduras and Guatemala, for example). Through this method, we’re working with Baho to work with a small network of producers.”
In 2020, Baho began working with Augustin Theophile Benda, the producer of this coffee. Since then, they have worked with him for every crop cycle.
This coffee was processed at the Humure Washing Station. “Humure, named after the highest hill in the area, is located in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. It was newly constructed in 2017, and Emmanuel purchased the station in 2018 after watching it be very poorly managed throughout its first year of operation. He immediately made large investments in infrastructure - new fermentation tanks, new washing channels, and larger storage units - thus, the production capacity has increased by nearly 20 times in the past two years,” Adams explained of Semilla Coffee.
“Since working with Baho, Augustin Benda has received a price 70% over what he would have received at the national farmgate price.
“Augustin is one of only two farmers at Humure who we’re able to have this direct connection, and it’s a pleasure to be able to provide to the North American market a single producer, multiple-year relationship coffee from Rwanda, something that is hardly ever seen,” Adams shared