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Back to the Beginning for Burundi Coffees

Shiny coffee leaves. Healthy-looking cherries. And sharing a generous premium directly with coffee farmers for each year’s high quality harvest.

To help generate the best Burundian coffee for my clients, I spent a week in Burundi in March with farmers, processors, wet and dry mills.

My goal? To share information in this pre-harvest season to help them produce the best crops, process the cherries on the same day, and track every aspect of their journey to market. From a green coffee buyer’s perspective, these are the vital beginnings, the key ingredients for high grade micro-lots of single origin Burundi coffee.

But I had another mission for this whirlwind week of travel…

I wanted to reconnect with women coffee farmers.

Key Message is Quality

Last year, JNP Coffee purchased and traded about 95 percent of the coffee produced by members of the International Women Coffee Alliance’s Burundi chapter. Mainly from the region of Kayanza/Ngozi and from the mini-washing stations of Kinyovu, Karehe, Mutumba and Mutsinda, these women, as seen in the new JNP Coffee video, had the care and dedication required to earn that premium above the price of cherries. Their labors contribute to women-produced specialty coffees, with great cupping scores.

No matter what their role was in coffee production, I shared my message of quality, traceability and sustainability with everyone I met. We traveled to four distinctive coffee regions, including Kayanza/Ngozi, Kirundo/Muyinga, Kirimiro/Gitega and Mumirwa/Bururi.

Lessons Learned: As I traveled along the rich red dirt roads of Burundi’s countryside, the lessons

learned included --

For the farmers:

  • Natural fertilization boosts both quality and production volume of coffee cherries – use coffee pulps, manure and banana leaves

  • Caring for coffee trees continues right after harvest -- prune them when necessary and replace old ones with new ones over time

  • Only pick red/ripened cherries from the trees

  • Same day harvesting and careful processing ensures high quality coffee that commands a premium in today’s markets

For the processors and washing stations:

  • Organize your farmers and suppliers of coffee cherries to ensure same day delivery from the same hill

  • Identify two to three hills with a history of producing best cherries. As farmers from those special hills to deliver their cherries on a specific day or days during the week

  • Keep a record of the fermentation process – type of fermentation and number of days for each fermentation

  • Record the number of days on the African raised drying beds, whatever the method -- pre-drying, pyramid drying or under the shade

  • Track how many days it takes to evenly dry coffee in parchment and measure moisture levels in parchment and afterwards, in green form

For JNP Coffee:

  • The wet process among washing stations can vary from one region to

  • another

  • Most use single fermentation, but with variable hours

  • A few use double fermentation – and the challenge remains to learn what cup results from these different processes

  • Most of the cherries are already delivered on heads or on bicycles directly by farmers to washing stations. A new government regulation prohibits the work of collectors, as they would bring coffees from different regions to a specific washing station, hurting traceability and quality

  • When de-parching at dry mills, have a special crew for double sorting and then conserving the green coffee only in GrainPro in a clean environment and well aired warehouses

  • Time shipments from Burundi with your vessel’s availability at ports to preserve coffee’s quality

Sharing all this knowledge to improve quality will lead to better cup results for our clients, command a good price for the coffee, and produce a better premium to farmers and coffee processors. Additionally, our efforts will support the economy of Burundi and its specialty coffee market.

I’ll keep you updated after I return for the harvest season in May. Also, be on the lookout for our local cupping from this year’s new harvest in June.

If you want to get in touch, feel free to email me at

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