10 years ago we rescued a 1955 cast iron Probat roaster and lovingly restored her back to life, naming her Betty. 2020 marks a decade of Betty in the roastery - ten years of restoration and rebuilding the old in favour of buying new. How better to celebrate, than with a coffee named after our beloved Betty.
80% of Extract’s coffee is roasted by women, but female coffee farmers remain a rarity. For our Betty espresso, we were adamant from day 1 that the entire supply chain should be run by women, from crop to cup.
Launching today, on International Women’s Day, Betty is a blend of natural and honey-process resulting in a rich and fruity espresso with the acidity of soured cherries and the sweetness of chocolate bourbon biscuits. Delicious both black and with milk.
We’ll be sharing our story about the rescue and restoration of our roaster, Betty, on the blog later this year, but first we wanted to tell you a little more about the coffee...
Pictured: Owner Epiphanie Mukashyaka and her son
After Epiphanie Mukashyaka was widowed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide she chose not to leave her family’s small coffee farm and with it, her community.
Out of tragedy, necessity, and pragmatism, women, up to 80 per cent of Rwanda’s surviving population, stepped in to fill the leadership void after the genocide. Aided by women’s civil society groups, lawmakers have introduced some of the most women-friendly policies in the world. (1)
Projects such as the USAID-financed PEARL project and it’s successor SPREAD began with the aim of drastically improving coffee quality in Rwanda to give female farmers just like Epiphanie access to the speciality coffee market.
In 2003, with help from the PEARL project, Epiphanie founded Buf Café. She now runs three washing stations, processing coffees from three cooperatives and more than 200 neighbouring farms as well as her own coffee plants. Her incredible story is inspiring female entrepreneurs throughout Rwanda’s coffee sector.
The level of care that Epiphanie takes over the processing of her coffee is impressive.
The coffee we are using for Betty Espresso is a pulped natural process using 100% Red Bourbon coffee cherries.
Cherries are hand-picked only when fully ripe and then pulped that same evening. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight, then sorted and dried.
As at most washing stations in Rwanda, the majority of the sorting is done by hand, by women. First on a covered pre-drying table, and then on the drying tables. By carefully controlling the humidity and moisture content, the fruit of the cherry ferments imparting a delicious, rich fruit flavour into the final bean.
Our job, as roasters, is to get the roast profile for this coffee just right to allow these flavours to really shine in the final cup.
‘Out of tragedy, necessity, and pragmatism, women, up to 80 percent of Rwanda’s surviving population—stepped in to fill the leadership void after the genocide. Aided by women’s civil society groups, lawmakers have introduced some of the most women-friendly policies in the world.’
Another woman in coffee, Agnes Nyinawumuntu, 39, is president of a 160-member women’s coffee-growing cooperative high in the lush hills of the eastern Kayonza district. Before the genocide, she says, the list of things women couldn’t do, including coffee growing, was long. “There was only one activity for us: to be pregnant and have kids.” Nyinawumuntu has five, and although her husband also works in agriculture, she’s the primary breadwinner. Seeing women in parliament, she says, “gives us confidence and pride. I see that if I work, I can get far. That’s why some of us became local leaders.” (2)
The second coffee, Peru La Osa, meaning “The female bear”, is grown by Magdalena Lopez and Fredesvinda Granda.
Their farms are nestled between the western and eastern ranges of the Andes where a unique microclimate creates perfect coffee growing conditions and a haven for wildlife such as jaguars, spectacled bears and peccaries. Farms within the San Ignacio Cooperative follow organic practices to promote a culture of wildlife protection amongst coffee growers.
Traditionally, Peru has a male-dominated coffee industry. Women have always been crucial to coffee production whilst men held economic power.(3)
Cooperatives such as Frontera San Ignacio in Peru provide women like Magdalena and Fredesvinda resources & financial support to increase coffee quality and encourage innovation – such as this honey process.
A honey-process coffee is somewhere between a washed and a natural. Ripe cherries are picked and de-pulped but the fruit of the cherry is left to dry on the coffee bean. In flavour terms, this imparts strong fruit flavours, acidity and sweetness.
There’s a higher level of risk involved with processing in this way. Moisture content and humidity need to be controlled. But the end result is a more complex and higher quality coffee with much higher earning potential for the farmer.
This particular lot, a collaboration between Magdalena and Fredesvina, was a one-off, we loved it so much when we tried it, we bought the entire harvest!
Another great initiative in Peru and South America is the Café Femenino program – a one-of-a-kind ethical sourcing model committed to ending the cycle of poverty affecting women coffee farmers across the world. Café Femenino provides direct compensation to women farmers, along with the opportunity and resources to enact positive change in their communities and on their own terms.
We talk a lot about gender equality, but what we should really be looking towards is gender equity. While equality is the state of being equal, equity is about justness and fairness. Equity doesn’t ask us to see everyone as the same or even to treat them the same. It allows us to appreciate people for their differences and accounts for those differences.
We’ve only just scratched the surface, but we’re quickly moving towards a better, brighter and more equitable future for people from all backgrounds.
Part Two: The restoration of Betty. How we rescued a 1955 roaster and brought her back to life
Part Three: #SHECAN - Meet the women behind Betty. From crop to cup
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