Countries Spotlight - Burundi
Burundi is a small landlocked country in east Africa, bordering the DRC, Tanzania, and Rwanda. For the past five years we have maintained a place for Burundian coffee on our fall/winter menu, and invested in a repeat purchasing relationship from our import partners, Crop to Cup, and a washing station called Buhorwa (which receives and processes coffee cherry for over 900 farming families in the region.)
Belgian colonizers introduced coffee to Burundi in 1922.
European missionaries and explorers arrived in 1856, and from the late 19th century until its independence in 1962, Burundi has been colonized and occupied by several different European nations. Today, Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world, and many citizens of this small country depend largely on farming and foreign-aid for survival. Agriculture employs more than 90 percent of the population, with 800,000 coffee farmers accounting for approximately 14.5% of all exports. In this sense - we believe that investing in specialty coffee from Burundi can make a huge difference in the quality of life for farming families. The coffee industry has evolved from exclusively commercial production towards more specialty production since Burundi’s independence from Belgium in 1962. A large driver of this was the privatization of of many SOGESTALS* (groupings of regional Washing stations where small-scale farmers deliver and sell their cherry) previously controlled by government.
Coffees grown in Burundi benefit from high altitudes, volcanic soil rich in nutrients such as nitrogen, and approximately 1,200 mm of rainfall a year. The primary plant variety is Bourbon, known for its velvet mouthfeel, fruit-forwardness and citrus characteristics, harvested in the regions of Kayanza, Karuzi, Buyenzi, Mumirwa, and Kirimiro in the northeast. The washing process is similar to other East African countries, often double-washed and double-fermented, resulting in a clean bright flavour, though on a recent visit to the Kayanza region, we tasted some exceptional jammy and clean dry-processed coffees.
*Update as of 2020 - The ownership structure of Burundi's some 160 washing stations is becoming, in a sense, nationalized and managed by a national Marketing authority. As our importers Crop to Cup outline in this article we are fearful that this reform will have negative impact on traceability of specialty coffees from Burundi, and limit opportunity for small-scale farmers to sell their separated lots for premiums. Annual Harvest Period: April - July Coffee's we have purchased from Burundi: (2015) Rubiziri washing station (631 farming famlies), Bukeye, Burundi (2017) Buhorwa washing station (900 farming families), Bukeye, Burundi (2018) Buhorwa washing station (900 farming families), Bukeye, Burundi (2019) Buhorwa washing station (900 farming families), Bukeye, Burundi (2020) Buhorwa washing station (900 farming families), Bukeye, Burundi