Coffee Origins: Burundi

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burundi

Burundi? Under Belgian colonial control in the 1920s, coffee was introduced to Burundi and starting in 1933, every peasant farmer was required to grow at least coffee trees. Burundi’s coffee crop was privatized when the country attained independence in 1962. This changed in 1972 when the political context changed, but coffee has progressively returned to the private sector since 1991.

burundi

Coffee output had been continuously expanding until the civil war in 1993 when it dropped dramatically. Since then, efforts have been made in Burundi to enhance both coffee production and value. Burundi’s economy has been wrecked by conflict, thus investment in the industry is considered critical. Burundi has one of the world’s lowest per capita incomes in 2011, with 90% of the population dependent on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea exports together account for about 90% of total foreign exchange earnings.

Coffee production is increasing, although not to the levels seen in the early 1980s. In Burundi, though, there is yet hope for coffee. Movements toward better prices through improved quality can only be a beneficial thing for the 650,000 families who rely on the crop. The persistent fear of political unrest returning remains big, however.

Burundi’s climate is ideal for coffee production. It is mostly mountainous, which provides the required altitudes and climates. Burundi has no coffee estates, hence coffee is grown by a huge number of smallholder farmers. These producers have recently become more organized, clustering around one of the country’s 160 washing facilities. The state owns about two-thirds of these washing stations, while the rest are privately owned. Each washing station receives coffee from anything between a few hundred and two thousand manufacturers.

These stations are organized as SOGESTALs (Sociétés de Gestion des Stations de Lavage) within each region, which are effectively management organizations for clusters of washing stations. These organizations have been driving quality improvement in recent years, mostly through the provision of better infrastructure in their respective regions.

Burundi’s best coffees are well washed and primarily Bourbon, while other types are farmed as well. Burundi and its neighbor Rwanda share many similarities, including similar elevations and coffee varietals, as well as the constraints of being landlocked, which can stymie the speedy export required for raw coffee to arrive in good condition in the consuming countries. Burundi’s coffee is susceptible to the potato flaw, the same as Rwanda’s.

Until recently, all of the coffees from each SOGESTAL’s washing stations were combined together. As a result, coffees exported from Burundi could only be traced back to their SOGESTAL, which is practically their origin location.

Burundi started to embrace the specialty coffee industry in 2008, allowing for more direct and traceable purchases. The Prestige Cup, a forerunner to the more recognized Cup of Excellence, was held in Burundi in 2011 as a coffee quality competition. Individual washing station items were kept separate and ranked by quality before being auctioned off with their traceability intact. This means that we may expect to see more distinctive and intriguing coffees from Burundi in the future, and there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of quality.

burundi

burundi

GROWING REGIONS

Population: 11,179,000

Number of 60kg (132lb) bags in 2016: 351,000

Burundi is such a small country that it doesn’t really have distinct growing areas. Coffee grows right across the country, wherever there is suitable land and altitude. The country is divided into provinces, and coffee farms are clustered around the washing stations (wet mills) there.

BUBANZA

This region is in the northwest of Burundi.

Altitude:                                 average of 1,350m (4,400ft)

Harvest:                                  April–July

Varieties:                                   Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

BUJUMBURA RURAL

Located in western Burundi.

average of 1,400m (4,600ft)

BURURI

This southwestern province contains three of Burundi’s national parks.

Altitude: average of 1,550m (5,050ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

CIBITOKE

This province is in the very northwest of Burundi, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Altitude:                                 average of 1,450m (4,750ft)

Harvest:                                  April–July

Varieties:                                   Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

GITEGA

This central region contains one of the two state-owned dry mills, used for the final stages of preparation and quality control before export.

Altitude: average of 1,450m (4,750ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

KAZI

This region is slightly west of central Burundi.

Altitude: average of 1,600m (5,200ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

KAYANZA

This northern region, near the Rwandan border, has the second-highest number of stations.

Altitude: average of 1,700m (5,600ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

KIRUNDO

This region is in the northernmost part of the country. average of 1,500m (4,900ft)

MAKAMBA

One of the most southerly provinces in Burundi.

Altitude: average of 1,550m (5,050ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

MURAMVYA

A small region in the central part of the country.

Altitude: average of 1,800m (5,900ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

MUYINGA

This region borders Tanzania in the northeastern part of the country.

Altitude: average of 1,600m (5,200ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

MARO

Another small region in the middle of the country.

Altitude: Average of 1,700m (5,600ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

NGOZI

The most concentrated region for coffee production, is in the north of the country, with 25 percent of the washing stations.

Altitude: average of 1,650m (5,400ft)
Harvest: April–July
Varieties: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibrizi, and some SL varieties

RUTANA

This region is in southern Burundi, west of Mount Kizaki. It has one washing station.

Number of washing stations: 1

average of 1,550m (5,050ft)

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1 comment

  1. May 23, 2022 at 1:41 am
    vzeifjfppk

    That was such thought-provoking content.

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