Ground to Cup

Ground to Cup

One of the things I love about traveling to see our artisans is when they get to teach me what they do. On this trip I have learned to carve, make baskets, and yesterday the traditional art of coffee producing. Many of the ladies in the cooperative not only weave but they also farm. They cannot work full time as weavers because there is just not enough work. They grow many things and one of those things is coffee. They were going to introduce me to the ways of traditional coffee making Rwanda style. Let me set the stage, it started raining as we drove to meet the ladies. We then had to take a dirt road to get to their house but our car could only go so far on that road. We then had to hop out and walk about 15 minutes on a small road that overlooked beautiful hills and valleys. Rwanda is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. We get to the house and they dress me in kitenge fabric and a headscarf. “You are now one of us.” We walk a narrow pathway by a steep hillside and start climbing. One of the reasons Rwandan coffee is good is because it is grown at elevations between 4,000-6,500 feet above sea level. We get to the coffee tree and see most of the coffee is green. The harvest time is usually March- May. Since I am here now, they wanted me to harvest some. We found some red coffee beans. After picking them, we headed back home. Now we had to remove the red part which is the coffee cherry. They said we have a machine. Really? It’s a flat rock and a smaller rock. We put the coffee cherry fruit between the 2 rocks and smash it until the fruit is removed. We then have to dry the beans for 2 weeks. The process of doing that is that it can only be laid in the sun every other day or it will affect the flavor. Once dried, we have to take a final skin off of the coffee. Now it’s time to roast. It is roasted in a pan on an open flame for about 30 minutes. How do you know when it’s ready? It will be a beautiful brown color and start to smell like really good coffee. Then we take the roasted beans and put it in an oversized mortar and pestle. We pound the heck out of it. Now it’s time for coffee! They mix the coffee in the hot water and strain it into cups. I am going to be honest, I wasn’t sure what this was gonna taste like but I was pleasantly surprised! It was quite good! We all sat around drinking coffee and sharing stories. They told me they wanted to thank me for coming and would love to give me a cow as it was their tradition but they knew I couldn’t take one back. That is true but they wanted to end our time together with dancing. So yes, Marisa did African dancing with her new friends in a mud house up in the hills of Rwanda. They walked me back up the hill and down the dirt road to my car, hugged me, and said next time I needed to stay overnight! As I was driving back to my hotel, I realize what a privilege I have been given that I get the opportunity to step into the lives of our artisans and become one of them for the day.