April 20, 2020 2 min read

Did you know the quality of coffee and the quality of the labour picking the coffee are closely related?

Picking season has officially begun here in Rwanda and the coffee farmers expect it to be a fruitful one. Other than the fact that all farmers have been asked to adhere to social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, everything else is much the same.

Coffee beans grow inside cherries, which dangle from the branches until a cherry picker decides they’re ripe enough to be picked. But this is a more complex decision than it sounds. It is a little-known fact that that the quality of the coffee and the skill of labour picking the coffee, are closely related. That’s why our farmers follow the best practices, making sure to harvest only the red, ripe cherries from the trees. By only picking ripe cherries, 3 African Sisters ensures sweeter and more complex flavours in our coffee. This is because the sugars in the fruit have had a long time to develop. Our pickers have to re-visit each and every tree in order to harvest the cherries as they ripen, as over or under-ripe cherries can result in unpleasant tasting notes and can reduce the balance, complexity and consistency of the coffee. As a social project, each farmer has received plastic bracelets to help them identify the correct colour cherries and therefore, which ones are ready to be harvested.

Although Rwanda is so rich in coffee, with almost all of it being Arabica, it has no large coffee estates and the majority of the coffee is farmed by small-scale farmers and their families – most of whom own less than a quarter of a hectare of the land. For us it is therefore important in making sure we work closely with our farmers to create stability and mitigate risk.

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