The rise in the reputation of Rwandan speciality coffee, which was pioneered quite recently through the efforts of Union Hand-Roasted of London, has been continued by no less a name than Bill Clinton.
The former president is one of the team behind the launch of Rwandan Farmers, a new coffee which will be roasted by Matthew Algie of Glasgow, a company with an extremely wide business through UK hotels and restaurants.
Matthew Algie has bought 70 tonnes of the coffee, reportedly at one-third more than the Fairtrade price, and will return 16 per cent of profits back to the farmers' co-operative.
Clinton and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter are working together to support two co-operatives which represent 8,700 Rwandan coffee farmers. The farmers work in an area which benefits from high altitude, ideal rainfall patterns and good volcanic soils, and now use a ‘shade-grown' process, by which other trees are grown around the coffee bushes to protect the crop. The coffee is said to have a distinctive chocolate note to it.
Rwandan coffee first came to prominence six years ago through the London roasters Jeremy Torz and Steven Macatonia. Their Union hand-Roasted company was probably the first to highlight the possibilities of Rwandan coffee in the post-genocide era.
"As pioneers in the movement of speciality coffee from Rwanda, we are delighted by the Clinton-Hunter initiative, and that our initial ‘leap of faith' has given the stimulus for other groups to enter," Jeremy Torz has said.
"As our relationship has developed over the past six years, so has the intensity of our own work, culminating in our current, groundbreaking project with Comic Relief and Africa Now to investigate ways in which our premiums can be optimised to bring further benefit to the growing community."
Curiously, it is also reported that Clinton demonstrated his liking for coffee recently by arriving at Downing Street with a takeaway coffee cup in his hand, which he was still holding as he greeted the prime minister and walked inside!
By Ian Boughton