I just led a group trip to Burundi with eight people from across the United States – different life stages, different companies and different job responsibilities. Yet we all had something in common: Our love of great Burundian coffee.
My primary purpose in organizing the coffee origin visit was to give my guests a chance to witness the varied processes that produce the coffee we have come to enjoy and which provides our living.
There was little downtime in our intense itinerary. We visited eight different washing stations in Kayanza, Ngozi, Gitega and Burundi Provinces, plus a dry mill and cupping lab in Ngozi.
There were many firsts – a first trip to Africa for one group member, first time in Burundi for five people, and the first time on this kind of industry tour for everyone. Our group included very small roasters, mid-size roasters, coffee shop owners, distributors and importers.
Photo by José René Martínez Onofre
We learned by observation. As we discovered, wet processes vary quite significantly by region and even by company.
We saw operations with many kinds of ownership structures. All seem to have their pros and cons.
- Partly government-owned washing stations carry under their management umbrella several washing stations in several regions, providing the opportunity to produce more specialty coffee than those with only one or two stations.
- Cooperative-owned washing stations give farmers ownership and control, so that they care more about the outcome of their coffees. They also spend time working at the washing stations during the wet process.
- Private ownership offers more flexibility in decision making, as owners consider adopting and implementing new ideas more quickly to improve their process.
Regardless of the ownership differences, however, each washing station we visited demonstrated the ability to produce high-quality coffee. While their management styles and farmer incentive programs differed, every farm demonstrated that gap between the knowledge and financing needed and the capacity to build long-term, sustainable programs to ensure coffee farms in the future.
This is the value JNP Coffee brings – global connections with clients, consumers and organizations within the broader coffee industry to help bridge that gap. With our recent owner status, plus strategic partnerships at origin, JNP Coffee is now positioned to bring positive change to washing stations’ quality, best practices, and process improvement systems, as well as to build sustainable programs in the farming communities where we source coffee.