Nominated by Chelsea Thoumsin
Laetitia Mukandahiro is an accomplished coffee professional born and raised in Rwanda. Originally from the village of Musasa, located near the famed Dukundekawa cooperative, Mukandahiro distinguished herself early in her career as an accomplished and capable professional cupper. She’s worked for the Rwanda Smallholder Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOSCCO), for the washing station management firm KZ Noir, and today for the noted Rwandan coffee exporter Bufcoffee, where she serves as Quality Control and Sustainability Manager. Mukandahiro is a certified Q Grader and has served on multiple international Cup of Excellence judging panels. Her continuing work with Bufcoffee includes establishing a training center and affording ongoing opportunities for Rwandan youths interested in a career in coffee.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
The issue I care for the most is that in developing countries, the younger generation is not interested in the coffee sector. I am afraid for the next years.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Coffee is my life and my passion.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
The New York [C Market] price is not equal to the small producers and their efforts. Here in Rwanda, many are considering leaving the coffee sector and investing in other subsistance agriculture crops.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
Coffee makes friends. It is a universe of opportunities.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
Yes! When I cupped the 2018 Rwanda Cup of Excellence winner, Twumba Coffee—OMG!
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Coffee happiness to me is seeing that your production is in high demand and your reputation in the sector is bright.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
My favorite position in the coffee industry would be:
- Quality control, as I am well experienced in this—I’ve been working in this area for 15 years.
- Marketing, because I enjoy discovering new people and I love talking about coffee across the cupping table.
Who are your coffee heroes?
I have many! My parents, who are coffee farmers and have been for many years. Tim Schilling from World Coffee Research, Lindsey Bolger From Green Mountain (my trainer), Geoff Watts from Intelligentsia Coffee (also my trainer), Cup of Excellence head judge Paul Songer, Susie Spindler, and Grant Rattry (RIP).
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Tim Schilling is my role model. He taught me to work hard until it pains, because poverty hurts much more.
If you didn’t get bit by the coffee bug, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
If I was not in coffee I would be dreaming to be an actress or a nurse.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
My mentors are my former employer Gilbert Gatali and my partner at my training center, Uzziel Habimana.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
I would like to hear that I am able and everything will be alright, because in my time everyone told me that coffee is not good for my health and other many discouraging words.
Name three coffee apparatuses you’d take into space with you.
French press, coffee cup, and small grinder machine.
Best song to brew coffee to?
The best song is anything Classical.
Look into the crystal ball—where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I hope that in 20 years I am a producer and exporter of good micro lot coffees in Rwanda. I hope to have a succesful training center and to be an inspiring woman.
What’d you eat for breakfast this morning?
My breakfast was juice with some digestive biscuits and a banana.
When did you last drink coffee?
I took a cup of coffee during my break at 9 am.
What was it?
It was a cup of black coffee.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.