Written by Janice Booth
The picturesque expanses of the coffee plantations on Mount Huye © Anna Moores
Rwanda’s Maraba Bourbon coffee is one of the country’s success stories. A special type of Arabica from Bourbon coffee trees; it has a smooth, full-bodied flavour with no astringency or after-taste. The beans have excelled in international taste tests and are marketed actively in the UK and US.
The coffee plantation is run by the Abahuzamugambi Co-operative, set up in 2001, many of whose members are women widowed in the genocide who were struggling to support their families. This income has enabled them to pay school fees, improve their homes and acquire livestock. Support from a number of international organisations, including USAID and the UK’s Comic Relief, has provided new washing stations and improved equipment, and the area has acquired a new clinic, bank and market as well as schools and other ancillary shops and services. From an initial 200 members in 2001 there are now around 1,500; including their families and children, up to 6,000 people benefit directly or indirectly. In the UK, Maraba Bourbon is available from Union Coffee Roasters.
Traditionally, Arabica coffee had always been Rwanda’s principal export, but quality and quantity declined seriously after the genocide when production fell to about half its previous level. In true Rwandan fashion, the coffee industry’s recovery has been remarkable, and other plantations around Rwanda are achieving similar success with different brands, particularly in the north and the Lake Kivu area. Abahuzamugambi offers ad-hoc visits to the plantation and facilities, but coffee enthusiasts would be better off heading to Huye Mountain Coffee nearby, where thorough and informative tours and tastings are easily arranged.
You’ll find Maraba Bourbon in Rwanda’s restaurants, hotels and supermarkets, along with other Rwandan coffees and tea, and at prices far lower than in international stores. Watch out for it – whether in the UK, the US or Rwanda – and enjoy!
For more on Maraba Bourbon coffee and Rwanda, take a look at our comprehensive guide: