Rwanda is especially close to our hearts. Years ago, two of our team members had the opportunity to visit Rwanda and Burundi, meeting with longtime partners and making new connections, as well. Though we have worked with different importers to sustain our relationship with this place, we have brought high-impact and beautiful coffees to our menu every year. For 2023, we’re very excited to be working with Montreal-based importer, Semilla, for our coffees from Rwanda, broadening a partnership that has run deep for years, primarily focused in Honduras. Through Semilla, we are able to represent three coffees produced under the umbrella of Baho Coffee, a Rwandan organization founded by Emmanuel Rusatira. Emmanuel founded Baho after decades of experience in the Rwandan coffee sector, emphasizing equity, education, and experimentation in his efforts to radically invigorate quality and integrity throughout the country. Today, Baho operates 11 community washing stations, producing a wide range of hyper-traceable micro-lots in addition to flavor-focused blends like this one.
Both of our Baho Blends—one washed and one natural—represent producers from all over Rwanda, but share standardized approaches to processing, quality control, and equitable compensation. While the status quo for sub-micro-lot quality coffees in Rwanda is unceremonious at best, Baho and Semilla do things differently. Most coffees like this are purchased by large, multinational operations buying them at slim differentials from the commodities trading baseline, whereas Semilla purchases these coffees from Baho at prices roughly double this baseline, meaning the smallholder producers themselves receive ~55% higher premiums than the national market price. Thanks to Baho’s exacting processing standards and meticulous blend construction, this results in a truly humbling value in the end—suffice to say, these coffees are phenomenal.
In addition to raw compensation, Baho supports its smallholder partners through both education and traceability (for their smaller lots), the latter allowing for greater year-on-year income reliability. Baho primarily upholds its value on education from Farmer Field Schools, summarized by Semilla like this: “The FFS system involves grouping together farmers that live close to each other and having them elect a representative for their group. This leader then attends regular training sessions at the station and returns to teach the group. Through the FFS, producers learn about selective picking, soil conservation, water protection, waste management, and more.”
But Baho’s overall vision is best summarized by Emmanuel himself:
“Baho’s vision on community is guided by having a synergetic relationship with the community of farmers that we work with, where we guide them and create solutions in a replicable, sustainable and scalable manner leading to economic growth and poverty reduction. Our overall vision is implied by the meaning of our name, Baho, which in our local language means live/life. It is like a tree that grows up and has branches, flowers and fruits and still keeps its roots in the ground. Baho is born, grows up and sells coffee both locally and internationally and never forgets the origin.”
This is a vision we are proud to support. In the cup, we taste black cherry, cola, and blood orange. Our third selection from Baho will launch this summer.