Musasa Mbilima

Tasting notes: Elegant, juicy and sweet with notes of orange, caramel, chamomile tea and honey sweetness, full body and mild acidity with a long aftertaste. 

Roast level: medium roast.

Mbilima is suitable for all medium to coarse grind brewing methods, like Filter Coffee, French Press, Chemex, etc. It is also suitable for Aeropress.


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  • Country: Rwanda
  • Region: Coko Sector, Gakenke District of Northern Province
  • Town: Rubyiniro (Dancing Place) Center
  • Owner: Musasa Dukunde Kawa Cooperative - 517 smallholder farmers in Mbilima
  • Processing: Fully washed and sun dried on raised beds
  • Altitude: 1,900 to 2,200 metres above sea level
  • Varietal: 100% red bourbon

Musasa means ‘a place to make a bed’ and Dukunde Kawa means ‘let’s love coffee’ in Kinyarwanda – a reference to the power of coffee to improve the lives of those in rural communities. 

Musasa Dukunde Kawa now owns four washing stations and is one of Rwanda’s larger cooperatives, with 2,148 members. The Mbilima station is located in the rugged hills of Mbilima and Matovu, one of the collection sites for the cooperative, working with 517 producers. Each farm, although small in size, maintains efficiency thanks to skill and the presence of shade trees. They include species such as Maesopsis eminii (Umbrella Tree), Calliandra, Leucaena, Polycias sp, and Grevillea, amongst others. 

This specific lot was delivered by 23 women and 60 men during peak season of the harvest. Cherries are hand-picked only when fully ripe and then pulped that same evening using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12 hours) and then graded again using flotation channels that sort the coffee by weight (the heaviest – or A1 – usually being the best). The wet parchment is then soaked in water for between 18 and 24 hours to stabilise moisture content. 

As at most washing stations in Rwanda, women do the majority of the hand sorting. This takes place in two stages – on the covered pre-drying tables and on the drying tables. Washed beans are moved from the wet fermentation tanks onto the pre-drying tables, where they are intensively sorted under shade for around six hours. The idea is that greens (unripes) are still visible when the beans are damp, while the roofs over the tables protect the beans from the direct sunlight. Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s extensive drying tables for around 14 days (depending on the weather), where they are sorted again for defects, turned regularly, and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers, ensuring both even drying and the removal of any damaged or ‘funny looking’ beans. After reaching 11% humidity, the coffee is then stored in parchment in Nkara’s purpose-built warehouse prior to final dry-milling and hand- sorting at the Cooperative’s brand-new dry mill in Kigali. Each coffee that arrives is also cupped by Musasa’s team of expert cuppers along with the Q-graders of their exporting partner, Rwashocco. 

Lots are usually separated out by days. Upon delivery as cherry, the coffee receives a paper ‘ticket’ that follows the lot through all its processing. This ticket bears the date of harvest and the grade (A1, A2 etc) of the coffee – for instance, if a coffee lot is called ‘Lot 1- 06/04 – A1’, this means it was the first lot processed on April 4 and the grade is A1. This simple but effective practice is a crucial tool in controlling quality and ensuring the traceability of lots.