Sholi Top Lot
39 Members of Sholi Cooperative
Natural, Dried on Raised Beds
A product of collaboration, this coffee came from a joint effort between Sholi Cooperative and Caravan to identify and reward the group’s top natural process coffees from their 2021 harvest. This ‘top lot’ was produced by just 39 farmers, who all received an additional premium – in the form of a goat – for their exceptional efforts. This premium, requested by the farmers instead of cash, represents a sustainable source of income for many agriculturalists in Rwanda.
Located in the highlands of west central Rwanda, the farmers of the Sholi Cooperative cultivate small numbers of Red Bourbon trees, with average farm sizes of just a half hectare. Despite a small production capacity per individual, the members of Sholi Cooperative are consistent and capable farmers, delivering ripe red cherries during the harvest season which produce some of the most delicious coffees we’ve ever tried from this small landlocked nation.
Sholi Cooperative was formed in 2008 by a group of 30 women looking to improve access to financial resources for their community. This function as both a coffee cooperative and a microcredit organisation is relatively common in parts of Rwanda, where individual farmers might struggle finding access to capital and loans. Since then, the coop has built its own wet mill (coffee processing facility) and expanded into quality improvements and business development in order to create better outcomes for members. In both of these they have done exceedingly well, with a team of technical personnel let by Pascal Tuyishimire who have continuously improved the processing skills and capacity at their washing station since it was built.
In 2021, our third season buying from Sholi, Caravan worked with their quality team to cup, score, and select the highest quality naturally processed day lot from the peak of harvest. ‘Day lots’ are exactly what they sound like, constituted by coffee cherries delivered on a single day of production. This allows record keepers to track of who delivered coffee on which days and from which areas. With extensive cupping and quality feedback, their technical team can then advise on areas where quality might need improving, or in the case of this lot – reward the farmers with additional premiums.
After selecting the best quality lot, the rest of the day lots (all very high quality as well) were blended together and purchased at a premium by Caravan, even for those who didn’t capture the top prize. Those 39 farmers who contributed to the top scoring lot were rewarded with an additional premium, in the form of a goat. This unconventional payment was suggested by the farmers themselves, who are able to create longer term value from a goat than a cash payment. The goats can be used for milk or meat, can be bred or sold, and create natural fertilizers. Happily, the team at Sustainable Harvest importers in Rwanda helped us to source the goats, and on a Friday in late November they held a small gathering to distribute this ‘premium on legs’.
In our cups, we can’t get enough of this coffee’s juicy pink-fruit acidity and indulgent, ice cream-like sweetness. With a pillowy body and a long finish of pink grapefruit, we are amazed with the results of this year’s competition and can’t wait for the next!
Caravan Coffee Roasters are proud members of 1% for the Planet. For more information please visit https://www.onepercentfortheplanet.org
Coffees of such high caliber and complexity perform a bit better with a slightly ‘wider’ brewing ratio, to allow them to really open up. In coffee recipes we often refer to a recipe in ‘parts coffee’ versus ‘parts water’. In the case of this coffee, we would recommend a ratio of 1 part coffee to 17 parts water, which is slightly more water to coffee than a standard brew. Said another way, for a standard 250ml brew, we’d suggest a dose of 15g of coffee. For more tips and tricks, visit our Brew Guides.