About Burundi Bwayi Washing Station Bourbon
Arrived late March, 2013 in Grainpro bags, some of the new crop central and east African coffees now reaching the US. The top coffees have just arrived.
Bwayi (pronounced Buh-why-ee) is a state owned washing station located at an elevation of 1760 meters in the Kayanza region of northern Burundi. The micro-lots from Burundi arrive rather late in the season and this year we had a broad selection to choose from. After cupping the assortment of micro-lots the Bwayi was the clear winner; and the importer had the same great impression of this lot. In Burundi all coffee is processed and sold at the washing station. It's where washed coffee processing takes place - skin removal, fermentation and sun drying on raised beds. Traditional processing methods here first pulp the coffee and “dry ferment” it for up to twelve hours; then it is fully washed with clean mountain water for another twelve to twenty four hours, and finally soaking for an additional twelve to eighteen hours before being dried in its parchment husk on raised beds. The beans themselves, grown exclusively by small area farmers, are all Bourbon varietal or Bourbon derivatives such as Jackson and Mibirzi.
The overall quality of the coffee in Burundi, particularly in the northwestern hills, is high and improving steadily as premiums for top quality are being paid to farmer members of each washing station. Since coffee marketing legislation was enacted in 2008, direct sales contracts became permitted between Burundian producers and international coffee buyers, roasters and importers. Further, the legislation permits the payment of a quality premium to those responsible for producing "specialty" coffee (producers, washing station management teams and dry millers). Coffee must be harvested only when ripe and be processed promptly. This follows a similar model in Rwanda where coffee quality has also seen major improvement in recent years.
In Burundi the majority of coffee is grown by subsistence farmers. In fact, about 800,000 families in this small country of only 9 million people, grow or are involved with coffee; it accounts for 80 percent of Burundi's export revenue. Almost all of it is Arabica and of the Bourbon varietal. Farmers grow crops for their own food supply but also grow some cash crops, such as coffee. Most farms have between 50 and 250 trees, only enough to a couple of sacks of coffee in total. The coffee, once picked, has to be rushed to the local washing station.
Specialty coffee has been growing in Burundi in recent years because it earns farmers more money. Indeed natural conditions augur well for growing top coffee as there is volcanic soil and mist covered mountains, all set almost astride the equator. Selected lots can be had, often without pedigree, but with a very sophisticated palate - a terrific situation for savvy consumers. Great quality at attractive prices. High grown coffee from Burundi, particularly those from Kayanza and Ngozi provinces are making a name for themselves as single origin espresso coffees.
Cup Characteristics: This is a bright coffee with considerable depth and lively, particularly as one of the earlier imports. Subdued chocolate mouthfeel. Flavors are of dark fruits, plum, prune, raisin are layered. Substantial body but with appropriate piquancy. Classy Bourbon character and extremely well balanced. Long finish.
Roasting Notes: Sturdy, dense Bourbon can handle roasts between City+ at the minimum end to Viennese on the longer end, the latter a possibility as a single origin espresso. But best roast and use, in our opinion, is as french press or drip and roasted Full City. Pull at the very start of second crack and some of the high notes will be present while the chocolate aspects will be well defined.
Burundi coffee facts:
Population: 8.98 million people
Coffee Production: 515 thousand bags (60 kg) or 68 million pounds. Arabica is 96% of production.
Country bag capacity: 132 pounds - 60 kg
Domestic Consumption: Very little.
Coffee Export: 510 thousand bags (60 kg)
Cultivated Area: 60,000 hectares (about 150,000 acres)
Harvests: February - June
Arabica Introduced: Arabica introduced by the Belgians in early 1930s.
Specialty Coffee Regions: The western and central regions.
Grades: Superior grades of washed coffee are Ngoma Mild, AA and A based on size and number of allowable defects. Average moisture content is 11.5%.
Farms: Entirely small holder based activity with over 800.000 families directly involved in coffee farming. Farms are very small with most only 50 to 250 trees per farm. Coffee is cultivated at altitudes ranging from 1250 and 2000 meters above sea level.
Botanical Varietals: Bourbon almost exclusively but very small quantities of Jackson and Mibirizi.
Since land is scarce in small Burundi it is more economically desirable that the specialty coffee be developed for its improved income. At present there are about 140 washing stations where local subsistence farmers can bring their freshly harvested coffee cherries for processing. Most processing is traditional washed method, with some semi washed being done where washing stations do not yet exist. Burundi is landlocked between Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo with a significant portion of its land adjacent to Lake Tanganyika. Coffee from Burundi is attracting increasing attention from the specialty coffee industry, as has neighboring Rwanda.