A recent trip to Burundi was not a typical visit to my home country. It served as a reminder that JNP Coffee is here to make a difference, but not just on the coffee farms. We spent time deepening relationships with many partners in this work.
I spent two days in Bujumbura, where our lab facility is located. There we gathered a group of people involved in the coffee industry to hear from one of our own – a coffee professional based in Burundi – and learn more about the history and science of coffee and some quality standard practices in processing coffee.
As we sat together in the classroom, I was reminded of my business school days at Kellogg, when the professor would turn to the group of managers, my fellow students, and ask us to work together to solve a problem. In the heart of Bujumbura, the coffee professionals of Burundi brainstormed together on their experiences processing coffee and challenges with defects in some areas.
In several instances, we learned that what we thought was the right way to do something actually wasn’t. We discussed several day-to-day procedures that could be implemented immediately to help our coffees. As one of Burundi’s very few Q processors, I was pleased to be able to bring this coffee community together for such a valuable opportunity to increase our knowledge.
I spent an afternoon with one of the women business owners of our Turihamwe coffee. Her daughter is now training to join her mother’s business. How exciting to see the next generation growing into new roles of responsibility! I left her home even more committed to bringing more youth into the coffee industry and finding the right partners to pursue this goal.
Another destination where I saw important progress was at the wet mill where our Bavyeyi coffee is processed. They are undertaking an environmental upgrade, building new tanks that are designed to filter the water used in processing the cherries to reduce its acidity before returning that water to the nearby river. In addition, they learned that fermentation tanks don’t need a fresh coat of paint every year, but instead, a thorough cleaning, so that cherries do not encounter chemicals as they soak in those tanks during the overnight fermentation cycle.
With the growing interest in experimental processes for new coffee flavor profiles, I brought with me equipment that can help measure moisture of the beans, pH levels in the water during fermentation, and even sugar levels of the cherries. This will enable farmers to monitor conditions more precisely for the desired outcome for production quality. Most farmers were busy tending their other crops – beans and, surprising to me, even some apples -- as it wasn’t quite time to begin harvesting coffee cherries.
Burundi’s higher elevations are usually quite chilly in early March, but as an indicator of coming climate change, my sweater remained in my suitcase. Temperatures were 30° to 32° C (86° to 90° F). Excellent conditions for outdoor dining, and I enjoyed Burundi’s good food, especially fresh fish from Lake Tanganyika! These temperatures also mean harvest will come early this year, particularly in the southern provinces.
It is always bittersweet to leave my friends and family after such a short visit to my home country. But I returned to the United States thankful for the deeper relationships I have established with the people who can help JNP Coffee make a difference for so many lives in this region.
If you want to try some of our new coffees emerging from the latest harvest, email me at info@jnpcoffee to receive samples for roasting. I look forward to growing our relationship!
Founder and Owner, JNP Coffee, LLC