Muraho Trading - Rwanda coffee

Muraho Trading Company

A portrait of our partner in Rwanda

Get to know the captivating story of Muraho – a coffee exporter, who is representing the diversity and beauty of Rwanda’s coffee with excellence. Muraho is a company founded on passion and purpose. Picture two brothers, captivated by the allure of high-quality coffee and rich tradition. This isn’t just a story of entrepreneurial spirit; it’s a story of rediscovery and redemption, where the love for coffee intertwines with a deep-seated commitment to their homeland. Muraho’s narrative is driven by the pursuit of collective effort and the belonging impact. Join us in our conversation with Karthick and Gaudam Anbalagan, two brothers and founders of Muraho, and delve into the story of Rwanda coffee.

Can you introduce yourself and share the story of how and why you founded Muraho?

We grew up in Uganda before moving to Rwanda in 1996. Our father used to work in the coffee industry in East Africa and although coffee was somehow part of us, the both of us never thought we would end up in it. At the ages of 11 & 12, our parents sent us to New Zealand to attend an international education system and even though we were at the end of the world, we kept a strong connection and considered Rwanda as our home. It was not until our university days in New Zealand that we began to develop a strong love for specialty coffee. As we travelled and explored more cafes across New Zealand and Australia, we were always surprised that when it came to African coffees, it was always Ethiopia or Kenya on offer! It was very hard to come across Rwanda coffees which was a big surprise to us as we had a good idea about the quality from Rwanda but more so the potential! So over time, this lit the spark to begin our journey to put Rwanda on the specialty coffee map. Karthick at the time was managing a logistics company, based in Burundi/Rwanda, and Gaudam had started his coffee trading company in New Zealand – the pieces of the puzzle fell in place in 2015 and we began our journey to not only showcase the potential of Rwanda as a top-quality producing origin but also to promote the beauty of the country and its people.

As the founders of Muraho and owners of multiple washing stations in Rwanda, what aspects of the country's coffee amaze you the most, and how does Rwanda stand out compared to other origins?


When we started, Rwanda coffee was not on peoples’ mind/radar in regard to specialty, on the contrary, everyone was referring to the potato taste and inconsistent quality when talking about Rwandan coffees. MTCo was literally the first company in Rwanda that applied for an export license for natural and honey process coffees in 2016. So one of the aspects that amazes us the most is how far our team and our farmers we partner with have come to showcase the potential, introduce new processes and enhance more complex flavor profiles, and how well this has been received by our buyers. For example, our coffees have been used in several regional, national and international Barista competition coffees around the globe. Although every region in Rwanda has a unique offering/profile, areas such as Nyabihu (where our Vunga and Shyira CWS are located) which at the time was not well known for coffee has now become so popular with our partners as the flavors are so complex and to quote many “Kenya-like profile that is not expected from Rwanda coffees”…

... Rwanda coffee stands out from many other origins as we work with so many smallholder farmers, meaning each station receives cherries from between 500 to 1,000 farmers per season. In addition, most processing steps are manually operated compared to other origins, meaning we employ around 80-100 casual workers, many of them women, during the season. So, imagine the number of hands involved from farm to cup, it is incredible! Having to rely and work with so many individuals also makes it more complex to manage the operations, however this is what gives its charm and makes it unique.

Workers at washing station for Rwanda coffee

The Muraho website states „Rwanda has come very far from the horrific genocide […] to the striving country it is now“. Can you elaborate on the transformation and discuss the role of coffee cultivation in this shift?


Rwanda is the true sense of what the definition of HOPE and RESILIENCE is. If you see how far the country has come from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to what it is now, its inspiring! This all comes down to the Rwandese people themselves and good leadership that focused on reconciliation and forward development. The same applies with the coffee sector in Rwanda whereby low global prices in the early 90’s followed by the Genocide against the Tutsi brought the coffee sector to an all time low. However, through good governance and importance shown to coffee cultivation (with an emphasis over the years to establish Rwanda as a high quality producing origin), the industry has transformed and continues to not only be one of the major exports/foreign earner but also a source of income for a large number of its population.

In the process of coffee cultivation, what role do local communities play, and how does Muraho engage with these communities to ensure a sustainable and ethical approach?

Our local community basically plays the most important role within the value chain, they are the ones growing and maintaining coffee trees on their farmland, then selling directly to us. And Muraho has a big responsibility since coffee is, for many farmers, their main source of income. Our overall aim is to therefore achieve added social value for MTCo and its stakeholders. The company follows a long-term strategy and therefore needs to focus on its sustainable development which also means we need to continuously create win-win partnerships with the producers selling their cherries to our CWSs and on the other end responding to the needs/trends of our global buyer network…

… When engaging with the communities, we discuss, assess, and understand needs before acting. Over the last couple of years, we have started different activities to support our coffee community, especially after heavy rain slides destroyed many of our communities’ farms in early 2020 in Northern Rwanda. We were overwhelmed by the support of the global specialty community raising a total of 130,000 USD to cover immediate needs, support recovery by rebuilding homes, and build resilience (coffee nurseries, coffee training, support in planting new trees by providing mulching material and organic manure). We have built a strong network in the areas we are purchasing from and have kept the momentum by hiring the project agronomist as a full-time employee of MTCo. Our latest project that started in early 2023 is our Kilimbi Coffee Farm. The vision was to transform an area of about 1.3ha into a best practice example for regenerative farming, meaning to balance conservation and environmental sustainability alongside the commercial production of coffee, especially as we have experienced an enormous decrease in production in the Western Province of Rwanda over the last couple of years. The farm is situated right next to our Kilimbi CWS with the overall aim of raising awareness amongst farmers of how to better focus on quality and climate resiliency.

The expression „hobe“ is known as a Rwandese way of welcoming and embracing people into its culture. How does this philosophy translate into the efforts and practices of Muraho?

When starting the company, we said we wanted everyone involved to feel and be part of the journey. This meant our staff, our farmers and our local and international partners. The aim was for everyone involved to have a sense of pride and love whereby they genuinely feel part of the Muraho family. After all we are a family-run company built on strong family values. Every decision we make we put our staff/Muraho family at the forefront of it. For example, we have intentionally decided to locate our dry mill upcountry rather than the capital city, the main reason being to provide job opportunities for the local people. We follow this approach throughout all our activities. In addition, our priority is to keep a clear and open communication with all our partners across the globe as we believe in long-term relationships, in good as well as in tough times.

Workers during a Muraho festival

On the one hand there is a striving interest in specialty coffee on the other hand the market is facing obstacles like the implementation of EUDR. What challenges and opportunities do you face in the current coffee market and how do they influence Muraho?


First of all, regulations, such as EUDR, are quite different to comprehend and implement in a country, where coffee is supplied by smallholder producers, harvesting from an average of 0.3ha of land. Fortunately, the technology sector has improved tremendously over the last couple of years and Muraho tapped into it a few years ago, so we feel prepared for what is to come. Other challenges we face include fluctuating coffee prices, consequences of climate change, or adaptation to prompt changes within national coffee sector policies. These examples lead back to our philosophy of always keeping an honest and clear communication with our partners, focusing on building long-term relationships.

What personal connection or story with Rwandan coffee motivates and inspires your dedication to its growth and pursuit of excellence?


For us it is simple we want to continue to improve the livelihoods of our Muraho families as best we can through producing top quality coffees. We want to close the gap and perception in the coffee world whereby everyone recognizes & respects Rwanda coffee and to be considered as one of the best producing coffee countries in the world. We would like to stop having conversations and comparisons to Ethiopia or Kenya – Rwanda coffees should be compared to itself and buyers/consumers should understand the structure and complexity of Rwanda as a producing origin that makes it different to others. We also feel that there is still a lot more Rwanda can offer and as new varieties get introduced, it should only take it to the next level.

What significance do collaborations with importers, such as our partnership, hold for your business? Furthermore, how does it resonate with you knowing that your coffee reaches diverse hands across Europe, the USA, and Asia?

For any producer, it is important to have a home for your coffees. It’s even more important to have a home for your coffees on an annual basis. Finding an importing partner who buys the first year then doesn’t in the following years is difficult for producers. Its why we are very selective about who we work and partner with. We are happy with our partnership with Trabocca and since the last 2 years there has not only been consistency but also growth.  Knowing that our coffees reach a number of different markets is something we are truly proud of!

Rwanda coffees should be compared to itself and buyers/consumers should understand the structure and complexity of Rwanda as a producing origin that makes it different to others.

Karthick and Gaudam, Founders of Muraho

Don’t miss out on our weekly updates!

Sign up today, if you are a coffee roaster or buyer and want to stay ahead of the curve. You will receive weekly updates on current harvest status, new spot arrivals, industry insights and other portraits of our suppliers.