RWANDA: WHERE THE COFFEE BEANS DANCE
Lying south of the Equator in east-central Africa, Rwanda is often referred to as the “land of a thousand hills.” Despite the country’s small size, it is made up of several diverse ecosystems, from the lush rainforests in the south, to the Virunga volcanic massif in the northwest, and the savanna in the east.
The Rwandan people love to move. While women are dancing the umushagirio, or the cow dance, the men perform the dance of heroes to the vibrations of circling drums–music and dance are defining features of Rwandan culture. The Intore dance is popular at many celebrations, from wedding ceremonies to national celebrations and festivals. The Intore dancers move with pride, wearing vibrant costumes that consist of long and short skirts, ankle-bands and colorful head-bands, headdresses with grass wigs, and small hand-painted shields and sticks.
Rwandan coffee, like the tradition of dancing, has both a colorful history and a stirring taste. The first coffee plants reached the country after German missionaries settled in the early 20th century. It was not until three decades later that coffee production began to take flight. Before Rwanda gained independence in the middle of the century, the coffee beans grown were low grade. On top of dealing with the effects of decolonization, coffee farmers withstood the coffee crisis and the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.
With the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Rwanda adopted a National Coffee Strategy that developed infrastructure and training programs to support coffee producers. In the last two decades, Rwanda has established a community of 400,000 smallholder producers. Most small farms are sitting 4,000 and 6,500 feet above sea level–a high altitude that is ideal for producing high quality beans.
Resting high in the hills of the Nyabihu District is the Shyira coffee washing station. After the cherries are brought to the station, workers perform the “ikinimba” to bring out the sweetness in coffee by singing five songs while dancing and stomping on the cherries.
Murago Shyira brings you a tropical, smooth-bodied cup that is enhanced with floral, citrus, and red apple flavor notes.
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Header Photo Credit: Portraitor