Rwanda Cafe Femenino
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A few weeks ago, SOCAL-based Klatch Coffee sent me a care package with three packages of coffee. We’ve already reviewed two of them: the Original Christmas and the El Salvador Orange Bourbon, both of which were excellent.

Today we are finishing off that package with a cup of FTC Rwanda Cafe Femenino, from Klatch Coffee. Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Feel free to pull up a chair.

For very good reasons, I refrain from being vocal about politics and/or social issues here at the Table. For one thing, this isn’t the place for that sort of stuff. Secondly, those two topics are a can of worms that I don’t feel like opening here. However, there are some issues that go hand in hand with the coffee world that, unfortunately, must be addressed at times.

It’s no secret that women have it much, much, much harder than men and always have. All over the world women face abuse, discrimination, and suppression in all forms. Even here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., women are confronted with their fair share of setbacks and obstacles at home, in the workplace, in the news, in religious institutions, and in the media.

How does pertain to what the Table is all about? One area where women face a lot of opposition is in the coffee world. Coffee is a young man’s game apparently—in cafes, in roasteries, at home (who can forget this collection of commercials?), and particularly at the farm level.

Coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world next to oil. Female coffee producers make up 30 percent of the 25 million coffee growers that are responsible for producing 75 percent of the world’s coffee, and these women ought to be celebrated. Instead, however, women face harsh gender inequality, poverty, and abuse are rampant in coffee production regions. Most female coffee producers have no rights and, in some cases, no income.

With determination and desire for a better future, over 460 women coffee producers in Peru united to take a step toward achieving empowerment. This step came in the form of growing, harvesting, and producing their own coffee called Cafe Femenino.

Today, the Cafe Femenino Coffee Project is a social program for women coffee producers in rural communities around the world. More than 1,500 women in Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru are active in the project to achieve empowerment, build social and support networks, and earn incomes through the production and sale of Cafe Femenino Coffee. The success of the project initiated the creation of The Cafe Femenino Foundation, which provides grants to select programs and projects that enhance the lives of women and their families in coffee growing communities around the world.

One cooperative that achieved certification to bear the Cafe Femenino name is a favorite here at the Table, Rwanda’s Abakundakawa Rushashi.

Abakundakawa, located in the northern mountainous region of the district of Gakenke is situated at an altitude of 1700-1900 meters and encompasses five distinct zones. The cooperative was formed in 2004 and, due to a strong women’s movement, became the first Cafe Femenino Program on the continent of Africa in 2008.

Abakunda Kawa coffee cooperative is representation by two women associations, Hinga Kawa and Dakundakawa. The Hinga Kawa women’s association became the first to begin a Cafe Femenino Program.

The women of Hinga Kawa have seen one of the darkest periods of Rwandan history. Since this group includes both Hutu and Tutsi, the women made a decision to make poverty their mutual enemy rather than each other; and with this sentiment, they have been able to move forward and heal their community through their leadership.

After the coffee farms in Rwanda were left fallow for a time, several organizations assisted the farmers to be able to produce coffee once again. It is with great pride that Organic Products Trading Company (OPTCO) was contacted by the Hinga Kawa women’s association to begin a partnership that would prove to make many lives better in this isolated region of Rwanda through the Cafe Femenino Program.

the basics:

origin: Gakenke, Rwanda
farm: Abukundakawa (Hinga Kawa)
elevation: 1700-1900 meters above sea level
cultivar: Rwanda Heirloom
process: fully washed, patio dried
certification: Fair Trade, Cafe Femenino, Organic

the coffee:

The cup starts off with a bouquet of floral aromatics; the Chemex that I brewed this coffee in might as well be a vase because of the violet and lilac sweetness that is blooming out of it. Following closely behind this wafting of flower petals is a mixture of sweet citrus and raw honey.

Those floral aromatics continue into the first few sips of the coffee. One sip of this cup is like a watercolor painting of a meadow on a sunny day: golden wheat, honey, rose hips, vanilla, and orange blossoms. The coffee features a full body that consumes the whole palate with a creamy mouthfeel, allowing all of its dynamic flavors to flow over my taste buds smoothly.

As it cools off, it becomes markedly sweeter and slightly tart, as the “big” flavors up front (the honey and cream, most notably) thin out enough to reveal an underbelly of juicy tropical fruits. The dominant flavor note to describe the cup at this point is simply “red”—a point I want to explain more in a Friday Feature soon.

My palate is picking out a lot of fruit flavors here, faster than I can keep up with, so I’m just going to rapid-fire through them: tart blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, cherry blossom, pomegranate, apple(?), and stone fruit, each sip finishes off with a smack of nuts and raw cocoa nibs. Furthermore, a soft citrus acidity swirls around the palate and when it combines with the creaminess of the mouthfeel and the vanilla flavor, it creates another tasting note: Dreamsicles.

Full body; creamy mouthfeel; soft red fruit acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

The FTC Rwanda Cafe Femenino, from Klatch Coffee, is a very special cup of coffee indeed. Not only does it have an inspiring origin story, it’s just a really good coffee.

The Hing Kawa women’s association produced a fair trade coffee that dances on the cupping table. It blooms with floral aromatics and so much flavor. Beautiful honey and vanilla creaminess gives way to a bowl of red fruits, raw cocoa, and a soft citrus acidity that swirls over the palate, leaving behind a sparkling, clean finish.

I wish this bag would have lasted on my cupping table longer than it did. It was truly tremendous and dynamic. The thing that impressed me most about its flavor, though, was how unlike the two Abakundakawas I had last year it was. Those two coffees, from Ritual and Handsome, were so unique and had such formidable flavors; today’s coffee was absolutely nothing like them, but every bit as delicious as them.

There are two things I want to leave you with today: if you get the opportunity, check out this coffee; and please be sure to visit the Cafe Femenino and Cafe Femenino Foundation websites to learn more about their organization, their coffees, and their members.

Did you like this? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome here at the Table! Pull up a chair and speak your mind by entering a comment below. Also remember to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!

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