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Coffee in Burundi

Coffee was grown as a cash crop during the Belgium colonial rule in Burundi. The coffees were often exported back to the European country or other colonies that the country had. The Burundi people were then restricted to plant just a particular number of crops and paid peanuts for their hard work.

Coffee processing in Burundi

Like most coffee producing countries across the globe, coffee in Burundi is produced by small scale farmers with micro plots. The farmers grow coffee in very small lands majority of them being less than an acre. The coffee cherries are usually taken to centralized stations for processing. Getting to single origin bean (single variety or single farm) from Burundi is almost next to impossible and is normally sold as single station coffees.

The coffees are processed with much carefulness and concentration to make sure the quality is not compromised with extensive sorting out, washing and fermentation to ensure consistency in the quality of the coffees. The country’s method of processing is similar to that of Kenya. After de-pulping the beans are dry fermented for about half a day and then deep soaked in water for a period of 12 to 14 hours. The coffees undergo floating process to sort by density of the beans and then dipped in water for more 12 to 18 hours. They are then dried on tables or raised beds.

Coffee production in Burundi

Coffee production in Burundi can be dated back to in the 1930s when it was introduced by colonial government of Belgium in the country. The coffee plants mainly grown here is the coffee Arabica which is also grown in most of the regions countries. About 800 000 families in Burundi depend in coffee growing. Farms are owned by small farm holders with a mean of about 250 crops per individual.

The farmers do not specialize in coffee growing but also have other crops like food crops and also keep livestock. Coffee production in the country has been subjected to civil wars and political instability. However right now the country’s export market coffee is fine and is promising.

Almost 25 million crops of coffee are cultivated in the country where most of it is bourbon and just about 60 acres are with coffee in the country. Farmers averagely own about 50 to 250 trees each. The country grows a few trees of Robusta though a very little percent, almost negligible.

Arabica bourbon coffee variety

Majority of coffee in Burundi is grown on elevations ranging from about 1250 to 2000 meters above the mean sea level. The specialty coffee that is mainly grown here is the Arabica bourbon. The coffee beans are processed using washing method.

Green coffee producing in the country

Coffee brokers are able to secure high end coffee beans from Burundi and make them available for wholesaling in the market. However there is no consistency in getting good quality coffees or single origin beans in the international market.

Quality of Burundi coffees

The beast coffee beans from Burundi can be stunning and have very good richness in flavor and quality. They are floral, sweet fruitiness, fig jam with bright. The coffees are usually lost through other bulky exports though some importers will seek these specialty coffee beans from the origin. The beans have a special and structured acidity and very lively.

Clean and fine coffee beans which are single origin (single country- washing station) have a rich acidity and body with delicacy in flavor. The coffees exhibits berry like sweet taste with floral notes and aroma with berry tones.

Interesting things to note about Burundi coffee beans

  • The major coffee growing region in the country is Kayanza.
  • The altitudes for coffee growing picks up to 2500 meters above the mean sea level.
  • The major coffee harvesting period is between March to June when most coffee cherries are ripe.
  • The processing method usually applied in Burundi coffees is through deep washing for de-pulping and then dried on tables, raised platforms.
  • The aroma of coffee bean from this country is red currant mostly
  • The common flavor of coffee is red fruit sweetness, dark chocolate like, Hibiscus and Jasmine.
  • The coffees are usually characterized by creamy and rich heavy body.
  • Burundi coffees have an intense winy sweet and sour acidity.

Flavor profile

Coffees from Burundi have always been compared to the Rwandan coffees which include the winey taste which is also common in other east African countries. Common flavors are similar to the Kenyan coffee including the sweet fruitiness and high dense and bold beans.

Coffee producing regions in Burundi

The major coffee growing region in Burundi is kayanza. Other regions include cibitoke, Karuzi, bubanza, Muramvya, Ngozi, Kirundo, Mwaro, Muyinga, Krimiro, Bururi and Makamba.

Issues in Burundi coffee growing industry

After independence achievement around 1960s, coffee farming was privatized the government being left to just left to intervene for prices and research aid. However this did not benefit the industry as such as the coffee declined in quality and quantity wise not to mention the poor flavor and attracting lower prices. This in turn influenced many farmers to abandon their plants and focus on other income generating activities.

The country also experienced civil wars around 1990s which left the country in almost total damage with it economy in ruins. This greatly affected the coffee industry and at the same time appeared to be a promising income generating source to help the people recover. With a living example, Rwanda their neighboring country, the country saw coffee as a lucrative industry. The opted to have a healthy balance and stable investment between the private and state owned coffee plants. This has helped the tiny nation to recover as a coffee producer with more opportunities and stability.

Another issue that has affected the countries coffee is the potato defect observed in other African countries like Rwanda in small extent and Congo. The beans adopt potato like flavor if affected by this defect and aroma and is undetectable through sight. The researchers are working promisingly to get rid of the defect.

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Last Updated: 09/02/2020