Coko (CHO-co) washing station is located in the highest parts of the Gakenke District and run by the small, mainly female Twongerekawa Coko cooperative society. Coffee from Coko is from an unusually high altitude (2000+ masl), which translates into slowly ripened, juicy beans that have both a typically Rwandan black tea-like finish and sweet taste notes of ripe citrus.
Over the past years, this coffee has become a classic for roasters around Europe, and they managed to create such popularity around the coffee so as to attract many other buyers in the last few years. As a result, since this year, Twongerekawa Coko managed to sell all its coffee to buyers who promote the coffee at CWS level – an increase of 40% since 2014!
For the 2016/2017 season, we offer not the blended coffee from all the washing station’s members, but a “village lot” comprised of only the coffee of the two villages that we thought produced the best coffee this year: Gitaba and Kavumu. A Rwandan favourite just got even better!
Coko is the only washing station owned by the cooperative society Twongerekawa Coko. This coop’s management is made up of twelve members: 8 women and 4 men. All of them are professional cultivators. The mission of Twongerekawa is to alleviate poverty among the 800+ smallholder farmers in the area, with a special focus on women. Their professional and agronomic background has inspired them to use a water-saving Colombian machine washer rather than more conventional fermentation methods. Even though Coko is located so high up in the mountains where running water is expensive – itis now able to rely fully on naturally collected mountain water for its fermentation and is in the process of obtaining full organic status. Their expertise has also allowed them to train smallholders to increase and improve their yields, and Coko is thus able to collect over 300 tonnes of high grade coffee from small plantations all around the washing station. Their results in the cup have been deemed impressive (and even scored 90+) by some of the world’s most prominent roasters such as Sweet Maria’s.
Twongerekawa also holds regular meetings in which women smallholder farmers are encouraged to share ideas with the coop’s members that could contribute to better livelihoods. It is encouraging to see so many initiatives in Rwanda being directed towards women empowerment – not just from a humanitarian point of view but, perhaps more pragmatically – because equal treatment, training and ownership increases overall income for all smallholders.
This washing station is built in an area with enormous specialty coffee potential, but when we first visited it was at full processing capacity. There is not much space to expand Coko’s drying bed capacity naturally, because of the steep slopes in the area. To expand, they must invest heavily in wood and sturdy construction, which This Side Up’s premium was reserved for after the 2014 harvest season.