An Introduction To Burundi Coffee

burundi coffee

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As a long-time coffee enthusiast, I’m thrilled to introduce you to one of my favorite unique origins – the delightful coffees of Burundi. 

This tiny East African nation is making waves in the specialty coffee sector for its unique growing region that produces a floral and fruity Arabica bean. 

Though it has flown under the radar for some time, Burundi coffee is gaining recognition for its distinctive cup quality that coffee connoisseurs seek. 

In this article, I’ll cover everything that makes these rare single origin coffee beans so special – from the growing conditions to the flavor notes and my personal brewing recommendations. 

So if you want to know more, stick around!

✔ Quick Answer

Burundi coffee is special for its delicate, floral, and fruity flavor profiles resulting from exceptional growing conditions, including high altitude, rich volcanic soil, moderate climate, and careful processing allowing its high-quality Arabica beans to fully express a bright, sweet, and complex cup.

Where Does Burundi Coffee Come From?

Burundi may be a tiny country, but its coffee packs a flavorful punch. 

This delightful specialty coffee hails from the rolling hills of northeastern Burundi, a small nation in East Africa bordering coffee powerhouse Rwanda. 

Although it lacks its neighbor’s global name recognition, Burundi boasts similar growing conditions and a centuries-old coffee-growing culture that has created a distinctive coffee unlike any other.

The finest Burundi coffee comes from its northern provinces like Kayanza and Ngozi, which offer prime growing conditions. With elevations over 1,500 meters, fertile volcanic soil, moderate rainfall, and plentiful shade, these highland regions have the ideal climate for Arabica cultivation. 

In fact, coffee plants and trees have thrived in Burundi since the 1920s when Belgian colonists introduced the very first Arabica coffee trees. But thanks to a new generation of quality-focused growers, Burundi is beginning to reinvest in its coffee industry after years of decline and neglect.

So while Burundi may not be the biggest producer in Africa, the care and the ideal growing conditions of their small farms yield superb specialty coffees. 

Their potential is only beginning!

Burundi’s Coffee Regions

The country boasts a handful of ideal coffee growing regions, each with its unique characteristics and flavors. 

Here’s a breakdown of the main growing coffee areas in this region:

Kayanza Region

burundi coffee Kayanza Region conditions for growing coffee

One of the notable coffee growing regions in Burundi is the Kayanza region, located in the northern part of the country. The fertile volcanic soils in this region, coupled with the high altitudes and favorable climate, create optimal conditions for coffee cultivation. 

Coffee beans from the Kayanza region are often described as having a bright acidity, coupled with fruity and floral notes, making for a delightful cup of coffee.

  • Location: Northern part of Burundi.
  • Conditions: Fertile volcanic soils, high altitudes, and favorable climate.
  • Coffee Beans: Bright acidity, fruity, and floral notes.

Ngozi Region

Ngozi Region 772 meters above sea level

Another prominent coffee growing region in Burundi is the Ngozi region. Situated in the northwest, the Ngozi region is famous for producing coffee with a medium body and a complex flavor profile. 

Its mountainous terrain and volcanic soils contribute to the unique characteristics of the coffee beans grown here. Ngozi coffee is typically noted for its hints of citrus, chocolate, and spices, making it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts.

  • Location: Northwest Burundi.
  • Characteristics: Medium-bodied coffee with a complex flavor profile.
  • Unique Factors: Mountainous terrain and volcanic soils.
  • Flavor Notes: Hints of citrus, chocolate, and spices.

Muyinga Region

Muyinga Region arabica coffee plants

In the southern part of Burundi lies the Muyinga region, another noteworthy coffee growing area. The Muyinga region is known for its coffee with a full-bodied mouthfeel and a rich, deep flavor.

The cool climate in this area slows down the ripening process of the coffee cherry, allowing for the development of complex flavors. 

Coffee from Muyinga often exhibits notes of dark chocolate, caramel, and red fruit, making it an excellent choice for those who appreciate a bold and robust cup of coffee.

  • Location: Southern part of Burundi.
  • Coffee Profile: Full-bodied mouthfeel and rich, deep flavor.
  • Climate Influence: A cool climate slows down cherry ripening, allowing for complex flavors.
  • Taste Notes: Dark chocolate, caramel, and red fruit.

​How Is Burundi Coffee Processed?

Burundi coffee is known for its unique processing methods, and today coffee production is a significant part of Burundi’s economy, and the country’s fertile soil and favorable climate make it ideal for growing high-quality coffee beans. 

The process of transforming coffee cherries into a delicious brew starts with careful harvesting.

The first step in processing Burundi coffee is hand-picking the ripe cherries. 

Skilled coffee farmers select only the red, fully ripe cherries to ensure the best taste and quality. After harvesting, the cherries are sorted and cleaned to remove any impurities. This meticulous process guarantees that only the finest cherries are used for processing.

Once the cherries are sorted, they undergo different processing methods. The two primary methods used in Burundi are the wet and dry processes. 

How Is coffee from burundi Processed

In the wet process, the cherries are washed and pulped to remove the outer skin. The coffee beans are then fermented to enhance their flavors before being thoroughly washed and dried.

On the other hand, the dry process involves spreading the cherries in the sun to allow them to dry naturally. This method gives the coffee a distinct fruity and wine-like taste.

After drying, the coffee beans undergo another stage of sorting, where any defective beans or debris are removed. 

Finally, the beans are carefully roasted to bring out their full flavor potential. The roasting process varies depending on personal preferences and desired taste profiles.

▶ If you want to know more about different coffee processing methods, head on over to this article: A Beginner’s Guide To Coffee Processing Methods

So, What Makes Burundi Coffee Special?

The country’s high altitude, fertile volcanic soil, moderate temperatures, and frequent rainfall all combine to create ideal growing conditions for complex-tasting Arabica coffee trees.

Burundi boasts two premium varieties – Typica and red Bourbon – both are praised for their floral, fruity notes and bright acidity.

Unlike the hybrids preferred by commercial coffee farms, these heirloom Arabicas take longer to mature but yield a far sweeter, more nuanced cup. 

And thanks to improvements in processing like meticulous hand-sorting and extended fermentation and drying times, Burundi’s coffees consistently showcase these fine beans’ pristine flavors whether they are exported or locally roasted.

With such care taken from the tree to the mill to the coffee roaster, Burundi has elevated Arabica coffee to an artisan level most origins have yet to match!

Flavor Profile and Roasting Tips

Burundi’s high-quality Arabica beans dazzle with their vibrantly complex flavors and aromas. Thanks to careful processing and drying, these choice green coffee beans arrive with incredibly crisp, pristine fruit and floral attributes just waiting to transform under the roast.

To keep Burundi coffee’s refined qualities intact, I recommend light to medium roast coffee. 

A delicate profile like this origin should be coaxed gently to allow its sugars to fully caramelize and acidity to brighten.

I’ve found that low and slow drum roasting between 390 ̊F to 415 ̊F (199 ̊C – 213 ̊C) with a slow ramp down best accentuates Burundi’s clean, fruit-driven sweetness.

And that’s the captivating contradiction of this undervalued African gem – despite the modest size of Burundi’s small farms, no origin currently offers a more elegant or consistent specialty-grade cup. 

The Burundi Coffee Industry

Coffee is intricately woven into the fabric of Burundi – it employs nearly 80% of the population and comprises over 60% of the country’s exports. 

For context, Burundi produces nearly 28,000 metric tons of coffee annually, over 90% of which is exported abroad. While these figures may pale compared to Brazil’s millions of bags, coffee at this national scale is an immense achievement for a small African producer.

The Burundi coffee producers

Like many countries on the continent, Burundi’s coffee industry is built on a foundation of smallholder farmers. More than 400,000 families grow coffee across tiny plots, their harvest averaging an annual 300 kilograms of exportable Arabica beans per household. 

In recent years, organizations like the USAID-funded SPREAD project have worked closely with coffee communities in Burundi to implement sustainability practices as well as improve quality through measures like centralized wet mills.

These initiatives are slowly transforming the potential of regions like Kayanza, which were once dismissed as lower-grade producers. 

With continued support channeling funding directly to farmers, Burundi’s specialty coffee exports can expand even further.

Though it lacks the dominance of African coffee titans like Ethiopia and Kenya in terms of volume, Burundi demonstrates that small origins with superb coffee growing conditions and processing can claim their own place of prestige. 

Where to Buy Green Burundi Coffee Beans

As Burundi reinvests in its specialty coffee sector, more of its meticulously processed beans are reaching global markets through ethical importers and direct trade relationships.

By supporting these coffee professionals who work directly with growers, you can experience exquisite harvests that improve farmers’ livelihoods with every purchase.

Many Burundi lots are sold in their unroasted green state marked by region or even estate. Seek out importers like my friends over at Cafe Imports or InterAmerican Coffee, who carry dozens of containers sourced through North American and European based non-profits working in Burundi’s coffee communities. 

Cup of Excellence also features Burundi’s finest lots from annual competitions.

While the complexity of international coffee logistics limits most drinkers from visiting Burundi’s picturesque hills, we can still support farmers through conscious purchases. 

Investing in Burundi specialty coffee creates a life-changing impact for communities rebuilding their industry. With impressive NGO partnerships expanding local processing capabilities, the improvement in quality out of Burundi promises to only grow more exciting.

▶ If you want to try real authentic Burundi Coffee, I highly recommend checking out Volcanica Coffee, their Burundi single origin Gishubi Long Miles Coffee, this light and medium roast tastes amazing. You can find them here.

What’s The Best Way to Brew Burundi Coffee?

Based on countless mornings dialing in my variables, I’ll provide my recommended parameters to highlight everything splendid about this origin.

For manual pour over methods like the V60 that best showcase clarity, a medium-fine grind allows Burundi’s sugars to dissolve while preventing over extraction of bitter notes.

Given the bean’s dense body, a slightly higher dose of 28g coffee to 400g water makes for a lush, honey-like concentration balanced by bright fruit tones. 

I also suggest trying an Aeropress, which can fully capture the heavenly florals and black tea complexity. Use an even finer grind nearing espresso texture with a 1:8 ratio of 36g coffee to 288g water for a two-minute inverted brew followed by a 30-second plunge. With a touch of milk, each sip overflows with aromatic juiciness. 

A French Press also brews a great tasting single origin Burundian coffee, but if left steeping for too long, you will get a muddy, overly bitter taste coffee, so for most beginners, I don’t recommend using this brew method for coffee as delicate as Burundi.

And while Burundi traditionally defaults to a filtered profile, don’t overlook experimenting with espresso parameters on these high-grown beans. 

Their structure and body adapt beautifully to concentrates as well – simply begin with a fine grind and higher brewing temperature of around 200 ̊F (93 ̊C) to tease out the origin’s hidden spice notes.

MethodGrind SizeDose: Water RatioBrew TempBrew Time
V60Medium-Fine1:15205°F2.5-3 minutes
AeropressFine (near espresso)1:16195°FInverted – 2 min brew + 30 sec plunge
EspressoFine1:2200°F25-30 seconds

These supreme beans reward tasting, adjusting, and logging each new variable to find your perfect cup. With some trial and error, you’ll discover this underrated African treasure can outclass coffees double its price!

Conclusion

I hope this guide has opened your eyes to the underrated delight that is Burundi coffee. Though still emerging beyond Africa, this tiny gem offers a supremely refined and floral specialty cup thanks to exceptional terroir paired with meticulous processing and export support. 

Despite the challenges they have overcome, Burundi’s farmers pour incredible labor into nurturing these heirloom trees that uphold the quality of life as well as provide the nation’s primary export. 

With such care taken from farm to roaster, I urge all coffee explorers to sample Burundi’s elegant coffees to experience a level of complexity and grace rarely found for such an accessible price. 

This is an origin to watch as it reinvents itself for a brighter future.

FAQ

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