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April 02, 2008

Starbucks to market Rwandan-branded coffee

Starbucks Coffee Company, the world’s largest coffee chain, is to sell a distinctive brand of coffee from Rwanda to the European market for the first time.

The coffee bean, referred to as Rwanda Blue Bourbon, will be introduced to the European and Asian markets early next month as the demand for the beans is now on the rise, the Seattle based company has announced.

Bourbon coffee, which is already being promoted in the United States, is unique because its unique herbal ingredient impart a subtle acidity that creates a cocoa spice taste.

Though this type of coffee is bluish in colour, Rwanda’s coffee is mainly sold in its green form and only sometimes roasted and ground to add value.

Scott McMartin, Starbucks’ green coffee sustainability director, said recently that the company views Rwanda as an upcoming, high-quality Bourbon coffee producer and will invest more than $4 million to help East African coffee farmers improve their communities through funding projects.

Mr McMartin said Starbucks is considering working with Rwandan farmers through their co-operative unions to promote productivity of the Blue Bourbon coffee.

He added that the company would inject an additional $1 million into the programme for farmers to provide access to low-interest loans through the non-profit lender Root Capital.

Starbucks is the leading retailer, roaster and brand of speciality coffee in the world, with more than 6,000 retail outlets in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim.

The company is one of America’s top 100 employers, being ranked seventh by Fortune magazine. It recorded $7.8 billion in revenue in 2007.

Mr McMartin said the company aims to open farmer support centres in Rwanda and Ethiopia by the end of this year. He added that the small Rwandan farms who produce Bourbon coffee are part of the joint venture and that Starbucks will buy all their coffee.

The Abahuzamugambi Co-operative, a group of Rwandan subsistence farmers in Maraba that developed Bourbon with the technical help of international aid agencies USAid ACDI/VOCA and PEARL could be one of the co-operatives to benefit from Starbuck’s programme.

The coffee is produced from the Bourbon cultivar of the arabica plant.

The East African

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