Burundi Coffee

As implied in the name, Burundi Coffee is coffee grown in the small African county of Burundi. The profile of Burundi Coffee is quite similar to that of the Rwandan coffee with its distinctive citrus and wine notes that are further complemented by the sweetness of fruits and a rich aroma. Burundi coffee has its roots in the period of colonial rule in Belgium when the fruits were cultivated as a cash crop and then harvested and exported to Europe.

Burundi Coffee

Coffee production in Burundi

Burundi’s association with coffee production dates back to the 1930s during Belgium’s colonial rule over the African nation. Over the last few decades, coffee cultivation has grown in scope with currently about 800,000 families subsisting in revenues generated from coffee farms either directly or directly. Most of the coffee farms are in the style of small holdings that generate an average of 250 crops per individual laborer.

Most of the farmers in Burundi who engage in coffee cultivation do not do so exclusively and instead grow a number of other food crops and rear livestock simultaneously. About 60 acres of farm land in the country account for a total of 25 million coffee crops every year.

Most of this coffee yield is of the Arabica variety while some of it is of the Robusta type although it is an almost negligent amount. Coffee production in Burundi has seen its fair share of civil wars and political uncertainty. But the industry is thriving and the coffee yield is of a high quality with many takers in markets around the world.

Coffee processing in Burundi

Burundi’s coffee production occurs in small scale farms that are often less than an acre in size. As such, the owners of these farms do not have the capacity to own their processing mills and instead have to rely on centralized coffee processing mills. After the coffee is harvested at the farms the yield is transported to these mills for further processing. This makes it difficult to source single farm coffee from Burundi as every mill processes the coffee they receive from multiple farms together.

The processing of the coffee is carried out with expert supervision and careful consideration to ensure the maintenance of its high quality. The coffee beans undergo extensive sorting, washing, and fermentation that produces consistency in the roasted beans.

Burundi’s coffee processing methods are similar to Kenya’s in terms of the dry fermentation for a period of 12 hours that follows de-pulping. The coffee beans are then subjected to submersion under water for a period lasting between 12 and 14 hours. After the sorting of beans by density by floating them on water, the beans are kept in the water another 12 to 18 hours. This is following by the beans being dried on raised beds.

Type of Coffee produced in Burundi

The coffee sourced from Burundi has certain features that characterize them as belonging to a particular coffee type. In the following section is a short description of Burundi’s coffee variety:

Arabica Bourbon

Almost the entirety of Burundi’s coffee yield belongs to the Bourbon variety of Arabica coffee. This is one of the best quality coffee bean types produced around the world and they are grown in elevated heights ranging between 1250 and 2000 meters.

The harvested coffee is then subjected to the wet processing method that contributes to its green coloring. Though single source coffee with consistency in flavors is somewhat difficult to find, exporters often manage to source good quality coffee from Burundi.

Quality and flavor profile of Burundi coffees

Coffee beans sourced from Burundi, though not very consistent, are still very high on quality. The flavor profiles they offer are rich and complex containing floral and fruity notes along with the sweet brightness of figs. Burundi coffee beans are known for their balanced and lively acidity and structured flavors that unfold one after the other in the mouth.

Single source coffee sharing the same washing and processing station while grown on the same farm is hard to source from Burundi. But when coffee exporters do manage to find some, they are of the highest quality. These coffees are characterized by the predominance of berry tones in their taste which is further complemented by a pleasant aroma.

Interesting things to note about Burundi coffee beans

Here are some facts and background information on Burundi Coffee that are quite interesting to note.

  • There are many coffee growing regions in Burundi, the chief amongst them being Kayanza. Others include Cibitoke, Karuzi, bubanza, Muramvya, Ngozi, Kirundo, Mwaro, Muyinga, Krimiro, Bururi and Makamba.
  • Though the average altitude of most coffee farms in Burundi range between 1200 and 2000 meters, some coffee farms are situated at heights of 2500 meters above sea level.
  • The harvesting of Burundi coffee lasts from March to June, which is the period when the coffee cherries ripen in this region.
  • Burundi coffee is subjected to a wet processing method that comprises of washing and de-pulping of the cherries followed by drying the beans on raised beds.
  • Most of the coffee sourced from this region carries the attractive aroma of red currants.
  • The common flavors notes apparent in Burundi coffee include wine and cherry along with hints of dark chocolate, jasmine, and hibiscus.
  • Burundi coffee usually displays a heavy body that is creamy and smooth in the mouth.
  • The inherent acidity in this coffee is quite intense and wine-like.

Issues in Burundi coffee growing industry

While commercial coffee production in Burundi was started in the 1930s under Belgian colonial rule and under the supervision of colonial masters, Burundi soon achieved independence in the 1960s. This lead to the privatization of most coffee farms in Burundi with government contribution reduced to price regulation and research aid.

The lack of direct regulation led to a general drop in quality and damage to the flavor profile of Burundi coffee. This in turn resulted in Burundi coffee attracting less prices in the international markets leading to loss of revenue and farmers abandoning coffee farmer in favor of crops with more surety of returns.

These problems were further exacerbated by the civil wars that ravaged the country and left its economy in ruins. While the decline in the overall economy of the nation led to most of its industries being hit adversely, it also provided farmers with an incentive to return to coffee farming. With widespread realization about the viable international market for their high quality Arabica yields and the higher profits from coffee exports, farmers soon restarted coffee cultivation.

In these efforts, it helped Burundi to have a sustainable economic model to follow in their neighbors Rwanda. Burundi soon found a balance between private investment and state owned farms and the cooperation led to a thriving and stable coffee market.

An additional problem that still affects the coffee produced in Rwanda is known as the potato defect that is also prevalent to a smaller degree in the coffee yields of Rwanda and Congo. This leads to the coffee beans taking on the flavors of potatoes and is non-discernible through sight alone. The potato defect in a batch of Burundi coffee beans causes a loss of flavor profile in their coffee and as such, researchers are still looking for a solution to this quandary.

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