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What does Burundi coffee taste like?

JNP Coffee Cupping Burundi

Burundi is a small yet remarkable East African coffee-producing country that is becoming

increasingly popular with coffee roasters from around the world.

With the help of JNP Coffee’s founder, Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian, we’re going to unpack the

complex history of coffee production in Burundi, exploring its diverse flavor profiles, common varieties, and processing techniques.

Let's take a closer look at what goes into producing Burundi coffee, and explore JNP Coffee’s mission to support talented Burundian smallholder farmers – especially women.

Burundi Coffee Farmer

A brief history of coffee in Burundi

Coffee trees were introduced to Burundi in the 1930s. Initially, farmers were given seedlings and forced to cultivate them with minimal support by the Belgians.

In 1962, when Belgian rule ended, Burundi's coffee sector was privatized. Ten years later, it was reclaimed by the government and nationalized. While many coffee farmers abandoned their farms, others recognized the economic potential and continued caring for their trees.

Coffee quickly became essential to the nation’s economy, before a civil war in the 1990s led to a significant decrease in production. Once the conflict ceased in the early 2000s, coffee was re-established as a critical agricultural export.

Burundi coffee production remained part of the public sector until the start of the 21st century when the government slowly began privatizing some parts of the supply chain. Investment grew, and today, coffee accounts for more than 80% of the country's exports.

The backbone of the Burundi coffee sector is its smallholder farmers, of which there are more than 800,000. Across the country, there are now more than 25 million coffee trees planted on around 60,000 hectares in total.

Burundi Coffee Washing Station

Burundi coffee flavor profiles

Burundi has plenty of regions with favorable conditions for coffee production. The altitudes range from 772 meters above sea level (masl) to 2,670 masl at Mount Heha’s summit. Burundian coffee is usually grown at high altitudes between 1,200 and 1,950 masl.

The country's nutrient-rich volcanic soil and high rainfall levels of approximately 1,200 mm per year also contribute to Burundian coffee’s distinct, intense fruit flavors and syrupy sweetness.

Founder of JNP Coffee, Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian, says that coffee from Burundi features flavor experiences like fruit punch, bright acidity, lingering candy-like finishes, expressiveness, and juiciness, with tropical notes. JNP Coffee's natural Hafi coffee from Muyinga is a prime example with its silky smooth notes of sweet, dried cherries and blackberries.

“Coffee is grown throughout the country in Burundi,” she says. “However, the most well- known regions for the best coffees, and where we are also located, are Kayanza, Ngozi, Muyinga, Karusi, and Gitega.”


Kayanza coffee is renowned for its high acidity and citrusy flavor. This is a result of the region's mild climate, which has an average temperature of 18°C and high rainfall in April. Farms here are found between 1,700 and 1,950 masl.

Jeanine describes fully washed Kayanza coffees as "bright and delicate... with a distinct presence of high acidity."

Other common characteristics of Kayanza coffee are tea-like flavors and tanginess, with notes of stone fruit, fresh herbs, and lemongrass. Some examples include fully-washed Incuti, fully-washed Turihamwe, and fully-washed Akeza.


Ngozi is located in northeastern Burundi and has a similar elevation to Kayanza. It produces less coffee but has immense potential for high-scoring lots. The local Gatukuza washing station won the 2019 Burundi Cup of Excellence with a score of 90.13 points.

“Fully-washed coffees from Ngozi – like fully washed Bavyeyi – have a medium acidity and are balanced with heavy sweetness,” Jeanine adds.

She adds that a fully washed Ngozi coffee has a present and approachable fruit-forward flavor. Common tasting notes can include citrus, berries, and milk chocolate.


Muyinga features a typical Burundian climate, with coffee farms growing at an average altitude of 1,800 m.a.s.l.

These superior growing conditions give Muyinga coffee a distinct sweetness, with notes of chocolate and slight bitterness. JNP Coffee’s Hafi is one of the notable single-origin coffees available from this region.


The Karuzi Province is located due east of Ngozi and Gitega at 1,632 masl. It's a newer coffee-producing region, but more than 135 mm of rain per year and an average temperature of 22ºC make it perfect for coffee cultivation.

Here, many coffee trees are still quite young. As such, Karuzi coffee such as Ubuto boasts a fresh flavor profile, with a clean, crisp balance of citrus and floral notes and a pillowy body.


Gitega, located in the central, mountainous region of Burundi, has an average temperature of 12 to 18°C (53 to 64°F) and annual rainfall of around 1,100 mm. Its coffees are delightfully sweet and fruity.

“Coffees from central Burundi are approachable and sweet coffees with lower acidity,” Jeanine says. “These are 'chuggable' coffees with complexity in their sweetness, but approachable and mild levels of acidity or fruit-forward characteristics.”

Burundi Red Coffee Cherries

Burundi coffee varieties and processing methods

Coffee produced by JNP Coffee's farmer partners grow at between 1,200 and 1,950masl. These high-altitude Bourbon varieties are known for their sweetness and body.

“Heirloom Bourbon is the main arabica variety found in Burundi,” Jeanine says. “Jackson, Kent, and Mubirizi are sub-varieties of the Bourbon – We focus on sourcing the best.”

Limitations on land size mean Burundian coffee farmers mainly produce micro-lots by definition. Farmers then deliver their crops to one of 21 centralized de-pulping and washing stations (called SOGESTALs).

Most coffee from Burundi is wet processed using a two-stage fermentation method similar to the one commonly used in Kenya. First, the coffee is dry fermented after depulping, before being soaked in mountain water. After this, the coffee is soaked again before being dried in parchment on raised African beds.

The coffee is typically sold under the province's name, determined by where the washing station is located. JNP Coffee names its coffees based on attributes of the coffee itself or associations with its region.

Burundi Coffee Farmer

A bright future for Burundi’s coffee farmers

The market for Burundi coffee continues to grow.

In 2021, coffee exports reached a total of $41.7M. Coffee ranked as Burundi's second-most exported product. In order, the top importers were Germany ($11.6M), Sweden ($4.09M), Kenya ($3.99M), the US ($3.41M), and Uganda ($1.78M).

Although the industry has come a long way in recent years, smallholder farmers – particularly women – still face many obstacles. Jeanine says the main challenges for women producers are lack of land ownership, education, and access to capital and markets.

These challenges have inspired JNP Coffee’s social impact programs. Chief among these is the Dushime® premium payment program, but others include a savings and loan scheme that develops future leaders, and a financial literacy project which teaches women how to save money in groups and offers microloans.

“This second direct payment is based on the harvest’s quality and the world market’s response,” Jeanine says.

“Through working with us and our Dushime® premium payment program, women are provided with opportunities for education and training,” Jeanine adds. "They are more likely to develop the confidence needed to invest in their farms, engage in innovation, and share the resulting benefits with their families as a whole.”

In Kirundi, Dushime translates to "let's be thankful.” More than 10,000 women and their families benefit from the Dushime® premium, enabling them to pay for their children's education, invest in their coffee farms, and save money – often for the first time.

Burundi coffee is already extremely high in quality, and demand is growing. With the proper support and infrastructure going forward, it will likely only scale further – and the coffee sector will be able to reach new heights.

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