CROP YEAR: 22
COFFEE GRADE: FW Scr. 15+
VARIETAL: Red Bourbon
OWNER:SUBREGION/TOWN: Kayanza Commune
Burundi: the heart of Africa. Named like this due to its heart-shaped outline, this small country in the middle of the African continent is home to some 600,000 - 800,000 coffee farming families.
Thanks to its excellent terroir and climate, many different regions in the country have favorable conditions to grow quality coffees. One of them is Buyenzi, which is also home to the microregion of Kayanza. This coffee is produced by farmers in this area and is then sent to Butegana, one of the first washing stations in Burundi. Motivated by the abundance of coffee plants in the region, Prince Baranyanka had the station constructed during the rule of King Mwambutsa back in 1952. The station was strategically made to be shared between two hills: Shikankoni and Nkuba. Interestingly, the name Butegana translates to “being trapped” because Rwandan soldiers were once trapped in the valley by the Burundian army.
This specific coffee is a Red Bourbon grown at an altitude of 1,620 masl. It is selectively hand-harvested by individual smallholder producers. The red and ripe cherries are delivered to the washing station, where they are depulped, fermented, and washed. The clean and wet parchment is deployed on drying beds, carefully turned under the hot African sun, and covered during cooler nights. After ten days, the parchment is dry and finally sent to the dry mill of Budeca, where it is processed for export.
Coffee in Burundi
Burundi is best known as the "Land of A Thousand Hills". High plateaus dominate the landscape that is roughly the size of Belgium. They form a unique shape of "rolling" mountains. These green slopes are not only home to some of Burundi's finest coffee trees but also elephants, hippos, buffalos, and crocodiles.
Burundi and Belgium are not only similar in size but also share a history. When the Belgians colonized Burundi at the beginning of the twentieth century, they obliged each farmer to cultivate coffee. As a result, coffee is grown nearly everywhere in Burundi. There is a large network of washing stations scattered all over the country. Yet, after Burundi gained independence in 1962, coffee production was seen with a bitter aftertaste and rather considered a useful tool for governments to stabilize the country when necessary.
As all of the coffee had been grown by smallholders only, traceability was limited to regionally grouped washing stations, the so-called SOGESTALs (Sociétés de Gestion des Stations de Lavage). Also, quality-wise Burundian coffees did not strike with complexity but were solely sold as cash crops. However, in the past ten to fifteen years, Burundi has managed to present its coffees in a much brighter light and worked hard to achieve higher quality levels.
The global specialty scene thankfully welcomed the beans from the country that had still been shaken by civil unrests just a few years before. Today, Burundian coffees are sometimes even called the "hidden champions" of East Africa. Still, logistical obstacles pose a challenge to this landlocked country. Due to similar topography and resulting cup profile, Burundian coffees are often compared with Rwandan coffees: fruity complexity and soft body are among the most striking flavors found in these cups.
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