Coffee & Tea
The world's favourite drinks have their roots right here in Rwanda.
Tea is Rwanda's largest export. The fertile volcanic soil and temperate climate are perfect for growing the plants that create this popular drink. Tea leaves can be seen covering the mountains – creating a stunning contrast to the blue skies, dirt roads and sunshine. Visitors can discover how tea is harvested, processed, and even get to taste the results. Tea plantation tours take place in a variety of locations across Rwanda, with the major ones being around Nyungwe National park: Gisovu and Gisakura. This is a great family trip and travelers of all ages are welcome.
Tea may be Rwanda’s number one export, but the lush, rolling hills of the Rwandan countryside are equally suited to coffee production, and the beans coming out of Rwanda today are in serious demand all around the world. The coffee-covered hillsides shimmer bright green all throughout the year, but when the harvest is ready (usually between February and May), the coffee cherries themselves blush a deep cranberry red to say they’re ready to be plucked. A patchwork of hundreds of thousands of small growers produce coffee all across Rwanda, but visits are primarily centred around Gisenyi, and a number of farmer’s cooperatives and washing stations near here offer tours explaining the coffee process throughout the year, and each one naturally comes with a generous tasting. The plantations themselves don’t liaise with tourists directly, so set up your visit with RDB or any tourist agency.
Directly overlooking the shores of Lake Kivu, it would be difficult to come up with a more perfect location for a washing station than here. As such, Kinunu, some 20km south of Gisenyi, is among the most popular destinations for coffee tours. Reachable by boat or bicycle, Kinunu makes a fabulous day trip from Gisenyi, and can be easily combined with a trip on the Congo Nile Trail. (www.kznoir.com)
Based near the village of Kayove on the route between Gisenyi and Karongi, the Ingoboka Collective operates several plantations and washing stations in the area, including a marvellously scenic cluster of farms on Nyamirundi Island, which are reachable by a short paddle over from the mainland and produce an Arabica that’s renowned by connoisseurs the world over. (www.ingobokacoffee.com)
KZ Noir (www.kznoir.com) distributes coffee from a variety of cooperatives and farms throughout the country, and visitors with a special interest can, with a bit of planning, arrange visits to any of their washing stations (though for casual visitors, it’s hard to top Kinunu for scenery). They have three other stations on the northern lakeshore, including Cyebumba, Nkora, and Rugamba, while Shangi, Cyivugiza, and Cyiya all sit south of Karongi and a bit east of the southern lakeshore. Nearer the capital, the Buliza Washing Station sits between Kigali and Gicumbi.
Tucked away at the far northern edge of Nyungwe Forest National Park, the shimmering fields and winding pathways of the Gisovu Tea Estate sit right up against the primeval Nyungwe forest, where the meticulous rows of tea draw a sharp contrast with the cacophony of wild forest greenery just behind them. The estate offers both day tours and accommodation, so after your tour of the grounds and cupping ceremony, those with time to spare can unwind here, mountain bike through the grounds, or simply soak up the serenity over never-ending cups of the world’s finest tea. (www.silverbacktea.com)
Splashed over the undulating hills at the western fringes of Nyungwe Forest National Park, the Gisakura Tea Estate is among the most famous of Rwanda’s tea plantations, and certainly among the most beautiful. Tours and tastings are easily arranged, and while there isn’t currently accommodation on the plantation itself, there are guesthouses just a short walk or drive away. There’s even a patch of forest in the plantation itself that’s home to a troupe of easily spotted Colobus monkeys, so wildlife lovers will have plenty to keep them entertained as well.