A Teesside University graduate’s family links have brought a Rwandan coffee to a Middlesbrough café.
Marie Bernice Rutaganda worked part-time at Bedford St Coffee while studying for her project management degree at Teesside University from 2019 to 2022.
During that time, the coffee shop owner at Rounton Coffee Roasters discovered that Marie Bernice’s family runs a coffee washing station in Rwanda.
The wet mill near Kibuye in Rwanda, which is owned and operated by Marie Bernice’s parents, acts as a central purchasing and processing facility for surrounding smallholders. The family business, Rwamatamu Coffee LTD, is the first step in preparing coffee ‘cherries’ into the ‘beans’ used to brew coffee.
Now since graduating last year from Teesside University, Marie Bernice and her husband Luke are working with Rounton to launch a new coffee from her family’s coffee plantation.
It is the first time the coffee has been sold in the UK, with Rounton Coffee Roasters now the first in the UK to stock Rwamatamu's coffee.
Marie Bernice said: “I was working as a barista, while completing my studies, as a way of staying within the coffee industry. I then introduced them to my family’s business, to see if there a possible collaboration, and the rest is history.”
I was working as a barista, while completing my studies, as a way of staying within the coffee industry
Commenting on her time at Teesside University, she said: “I had a really good time with my classmates and all our lecturers. I had no ‘special reason’ for choosing Teesside University, but I am glad I did.
“Despite being away from my home and having to adapt during the pandemic, I have had really good time at Teesside University, which has a great community and I met good people.
“The students are well supported by all members of staff. Our lecturers were attentive to our needs and did what they could to help each one of us individually.”
Marie Bernice, who is based in York and regularly visits Rwanda, added: “I would encourage anyone studying at Teesside University to make the most of all available opportunities. I think as students it is important to use our work life as a part of our educational experience.”