MILAN – Laetitia Mukandahiro is well known in the coffee community all over the world for being an accomplished professional. She was born and raised in Rwanda. She’s worked for the Rwanda Smallholder Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOSCCO), for the washing station management firm KZ Noir, for the noted Rwandan coffee exporter Bufcoffee, and nowadays she’s one of the founder of her own company, IkawaHouse. But she’s even more: Laetitia Mukandahiro is a certified Q Grader and has served on multiple international Cup of Excellence judging panels. Let’s talk with her, about her journey.
Laetitia Mukandahiro: who is she? A roaster, a cupper, a barista, an international competition judge, or simplier, a coffee lover?
“I’m a Rwandese lady, born and raised in the village of Northern province of Rwanda. I am married and I have two kids: a boy of 6 years old and daughter of 5 years old.
Coffee is my life and my passion. I am a Cupper since 2004 and I served Rwanda cup of excellence several times as National and International Judge. I have never been in any other sector.”
What’s your first meeting with coffee and how has it become your professional life?
“I was born in a family of coffee farmers; and after I finished my high school, I joined the coffee cooperative called Dukundekawa Musasa cooperative where my dad was a member.
I started working on drying tables and after one week I received the training on cupping and that time everyone was afraid of the caffeine. Friends of mine wanted to stop me from continuing saying that it is not good for my health. But I refused to understand them.
After those trainings I was the champion of the team and I get a recruitment from Rwanda Small Holders Speciality coffee company as a head cupper. And I was able to pay my university fees. Now I have a bachelor degree in economics (Money and banking department). After Rwashossco, I have got a second recruitment from Kznoir in 2011, and after five years I shifted to Bufcoffee where I decided to try my own thing after 3 years. I am now owning a coffee company called Ikawa house (it is a training center and we offer quality control and marketing services) to the coffee producers.”
What are the conditions in Rwanda to cultivate coffee as a woman?
Laetitia Mukandahiro:”Women here are involving in coffee farming considerably; many have their own estates others are grouped together in women coffee cooperatives.
And other are owning and heading big coffee companies.”
Laetitia Mukandahiro, can you tell us some of your current work?
“I am now working at my own company IkawaHouse as Director of Operationsa and I share the company with a man called Uzziel Habimana .(Co-founders)he original idea was only to have a coffee training center; after 3 months we realized that we need
to work with small holder producers in terms of technical assistance such as (Quality control ,experiments, micro lot and big volume production) and help them to marketing their coffees. ‘’ We also handle all export logistics and take care of their shipments; and we always commit to deliver their coffee on time. We didn’t forget to help importers to find amazing transparent coffees and build sustainable relationships with all of their partners.”
You’re also a Q-Grader, that’s a very remarkable success: how did you achieve this important goal?
“I am a Q grader since 2009 and I renew my qualification every three years. It is an amazing achievement I ever had.”
What are your next targets for the future of your career and also for the coffee industry?
“I love to learn different coffee cultures; and to be inspired by the coffee legends! My goal is to work harder and harder, go beyond borders and break the rules and show the world that we as women we can make it.
I dream to build a sustainable coffee community through my training center especially those young generation from coffee farmers. I also dream that my company will be a center of amazing and unique profiles . Where Rwanda community and the rest of the world will love to spend at least one minute and enjoy a cup of coffee.”