Full-bodied, balanced, bright acidity and sweet flavor. Burundi coffee has an interesting ‘wild’ note often associated with Eastern African coffees.
Burundi is a small and beautiful landlocked country at the crossroads of East and Central Africa, straddling the crest of the Nile-Congo watershed. Sandwiched between Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Burundi has magnificent views over Lake Tanganyika which make up much of its western border.
This is a country dominated by hills and mountains, with considerable altitude variation. The lowest point in the country is 772 m at Lake Tanganyika, while the highest soars to 2,670 m above sea level at the tip of Mount Heha.
Regional Climatic Attributes:
Most of Burundi’s coffee is grown in the mountains in the northern part of the country which borders Rwanda. Benefiting from ideal growing conditions and large plantings of local strains of the heirloom Bourbon variety of Arabica.
This is a large area in northern Burundi, bordering Rwanda. It is the main coffee-producing region, and you’ll also find high-quality lots here. There are two specific regions that deserve mention within Buyenzi: Kayanza and Ngozi.
The coffee growing area is located at elevations between 1,800 masl / (5,906 ft) and 1,950 masl / (6,398 ft). The weather in the Kayanza region is mild. The average temperature is around 21°C (70°F), and ranges between an average high of 24 (76 °F), and an average low of 14°C (57 °F). The average rainfall is about 1,400mm / (40 in) per year. The wet season is from October to April. The dry season is from May to September.
All these conditions combine to create coffee known for its high acidity and citric notes. In 2015, a Kayanza coffee scored 91.09 in the Cup of Excellence.
Like many of its neighbors in Africa, Burundi produces microlots almost by default: Each farmer owns an average of less than even a single hectare, and delivers cherries to centralized depulping and washing stations.
Depending on the leadership and management at the stations, both private- and state-run, 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 depulping, 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 Matsitsi Trading Coffee SU (or Matraco) company was founded in 2015 and is owned by Mr. Matsitsi, a coffee producer who oversees Matraco’s three washing stations and over 10,000 trees. Two of these washing stations are in the Kayanza province and one other is under construction in the Muyinga province. The two washing stations in Kayanza are some of the best around and have won Cup of Excellence awards in the 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017 competitions. Matraco is focused on fine-tuning its production process while promoting ethical trade and environmental protection.
Characteristics of Burundi Coffee:
- Aroma: Fruit & Spice
- Acidity: Bright
- Body: Full and Balanced
- Flavor: Savory, herbal, Citrus
History of Burundi Coffee:
The business of coffee production was initiated during the country’s time as a Belgian colony, following WWI. Coffee was a cash crop, with exports mainly going back to Europe or to feed the demand for coffee by Europeans in other colonies. Under Belgian rule, Burundian farmers were forced to grow a certain number of coffee trees each—and were paid very little money or recognition for the work.
Once the country gained its independence in the 1960s, the coffee sector (among others) was privatized, stripping control from the government except when necessary for research or price stabilization and intervention. Coffee farming had left a bad taste, however, and fell out of favor; quality declined, and coffee plants were torn up or abandoned.
Due to civil war in the 1990s Burundi’s economy faced near total devastation. Coffee slowly emerged as a possible means to recover the agricultural sector and increase foreign exchange. In the first decade of the 2000s, Burundi saw it’s neighbor, Rwanda successfully rebuild it’s economy through coffee production. This inspired Burundi to implement similar measures to rebuild it’s own economy through coffee production.
Burundi’s coffee industry has experienced an increase in investment, leading to the establishment of both private and state-run coffee companies and facilities. The additional opportunity and economic stability, and has helped Burundi establish itself as an emerging African coffee-growing country. In recent years, Burundian coffees have been frequent winners of many Cup of Excellence awards.