Despite the surface similarities that Burundi and Rwanda share on paper with regards to varieties, processing, farmer profile, and history (the two nations are often lumped together on offerings sheets and in the “story” of African coffees), they are practically night and day in the cup: The sparkling acidity of Burundi and the incredible complexity and diversity that’s possible here is absolutely a product of the terroir, the best coffees of Burundi are often stunning, pushing the highest reaches of our cupping scores. These are sugar-fruit coffee: fig jam, floral, sparkling with citrus, coffees that we are proud of and that many of you have grown to love.
Région Rango, Kayanza
Farm Kinyovu Washing Station Coopérative
Variété Bourbon, Jackson, Mbirizi
Altitude 1880 m.a.s.l (metres @ sea leve)
Proc. Method Washed
Main Port City - Landlocked country
Population Involved in Coffee - 700,000
Bags Exported Annually - 160,000 bags
Growing Regions - Gitega, Karuzi, Kayanza, Kirundo, Muyinga, Ngozi
Common Varieties - Bourbon, French Mission Bourbon, Jackson, Mibirzi
Processing Method/s - Washed, some Natural
Imported Bag Size - 60 kg
Harvest Period - March– July
Typical Arrival - October–December
Cupping: Syrupy sweet with big fruit acidity, and a heavy mouthfeel, lots of sugar cane juice with lemon, cranberry, cherry, honey and chamomile.
Like many of its neighbors in Africa, Burundi produces micro-lots almost by default: Each farmer owns an average of less than even a single hectare, and delivers cherries to centralized de-pulping and washing stations, SOGESTALs (Sociéte de Gestion des Stations de Dépulpage Lavage), and it may take more than producers’ delivery in order to create a lot. This purchasing style makes it nearly impossible, if not completely impossible, to arrive at single-producer, single-farm, or single-variety lots; instead, coffees are typically sold under the appellation of the washing station.
Depending on the leadership and management at the stations, both private and government, the attention to detail in the processing makes a big difference, with meticulous sorting, fermenting, and washing necessary to create quality and uniformity among the coffee. The typical processing method in Burundi is similar somewhat to Kenya, with a “dry fermentation” of roughly 12 hours after de-pulping, followed by a soak of 12–14 hours in mountain water. Coffees are floated to sort for density, then soaked again for 12–18 hours before being dried in parchment on raised beds. The Kinyovu Washing Station Cooperative in Rango, Kayanza, has about 3,800 members contributing cherry, with more than 1,300 delivering directly to the washing station and the other 2,500 bringing coffee to 34 collection points in the general vicinity.
Coffee in Burundi is a logistics challenge, even for the best of us. It is a particularly poor country, tied with Congo for the lowest GDP in Africa. The tiny landlocked nation is one of the poorest in the world, and is still burdened by a history of political unrest due to brutal colonial history and its unreconciled tribal conflicts. After the civil war–torn 1990s and the nearly total devastation of the country’s economy, coffee slowly emerged as a possible means to recover the agrarian sector and increase foreign exchange. In the past 10-20 years, Burundi’s coffee industry saw its coffee agriculture grow and start to flourish, inspired in large part by neighboring Rwanda’s success rebuilding through coffee, Burundi is establishing itself as an emerging African coffee-growing country, regardless of its small size and tumultuous history.