Three big-name beverage companies were involved in major work with Rwandan producers at the end of June.
Starbucks sent an extremely high-powered delegation to the country's coffee-farmers, including the top man, Howard Schultz, the British managing director Darcy Willson-Rymer, and Harriet Lamb of the Fairtrade Foundation, and then Taylors of Harrogate won a £240,000 grant to help tea-growers.
Starbucks will now offer a Fairtrade whole bean coffee from Rwanda in British stores early next year. It will be a limited-edition washed Bourbon Arabica, described as ‘bright and flavourful'.
Harriet Lamb, top lady of the Fairtrade Foundation, said she was ‘profoundly inspired' by the organisation, creativity and sheer determination of the farmers' groups.
Starbucks has opened a Farmer Support Centre, and says that it has now put up nearly nine million dollars in loans to East African farmers, almost four million of it to Rwanda.
The grant to Taylors comes from the Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICE), which works towards increasing the number of African products in British shops.
Taylors said the match funding will go to its work with the Rainforest Alliance to improve the tea quality from Rwanda which, a company tea-buyer said, the company has been buying for as long as anyone there can remember, for inclusion in its Yorkshire Gold. However, he added, that have been variations in quality, and investment would improve both quality and sustainability.
Cafédirect has also recently had support from the FRICF for work in Rwanda - it is to develop a single-origin orthodox green tea from Rwanda and a Fairtrade packed and blended black tea. Cafédirect will help more blending and packing activities to take place in the country, to keep more profit in the hands of the producers.
The British coffee trade has a distinguished history in the rise of Rwanda's post-genocide coffee trade - much of the groundwork was laid by long work from Union Hand-Roasted, the London coffee roaster which brought the first true quality speciality coffee out of the country, and marketed it in major supermarkets here.
By Ian Boughton