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Burundi is a beautiful East African country sandwiched between Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After many ups and downs in the coffee industry, today you can find more than 800,000 families involved in coffee growing across the country with each smallholder farm growing around 250 trees.
Burundi first saw coffee cultivation in the 1930s, whilst the country was under Belgian rule. During this time, coffee was seen as a cash crop, meaning it was produced purely for profit. Most exports during this time went to Europe. Whilst under Belgian rule, coffee growers in Burundi were forced to grow a certain number of coffee trees each, with the farmers receiving very little recognition for their work.
Burundi gained independence in the 1960s, which resulted in the coffee sector being privatised. This meant the government had basically no control over the industry, with exceptions for necessary research or price stabilisation/intervention. However, coffee farming had a pretty bad stigma at this point, after the Belgians forced such strict rules around the industry. Coffee fell out of favour, the quality dropped and eventually, a large majority of trees were ripped up.
The poor reputation surrounding coffee continued up to the 1990s-2000s, where the country saw a near-catastrophic economic downfall. Coffee emerged again around this time as a possible fix to the agricultural industry and increase foreign exchange. Inspired by its neighbouring coffee producing country Rwanda’s success in regrowing their industry, Burundi’s coffee industry saw an increase in investment in the first decade of the 2000s. From this emerged a fairly healthy balance between private and state-run coffee companies, creating more stability in the industry and in turn helping Burundi establish themselves as an African coffee-growing country.
Main Growing Regions
While coffee farms can be found anywhere and everywhere across Burundi, there are a handful of main growing regions which climates and altitudes result in a variety of different flavours in their coffees. Buyenzi is found in northern Burundi, near the Burundi-Rwanda border. The majority of coffee produced in Burundi is produced here, and is also made to a very high quality.
Kayanza has quite mild weather, with average coffee farm altitudes between 1700 and 2000 MASL. These conditions combine to create coffee with high acidity and strong citrus flavours. Kayanza coffee is also known for quality, receiving a cupping score of 91.09 in 2015.
Ngozi can be found in northeast Burundi, with a similar altitude to Kayanza. Less coffee is produced here than in Kayanza, but the climate here also shows excellent potential, with cupping scores reaching over 88.9.
Kirundo, also found in northeast Burundi, produced quite a small amount of coffee. Most farms here lie between 1400 and 1700 MASL, with cupping scores above 86. Again found in northeast Burundi, Muyinga coffee farms are usually found around 1800 MASL. This region has a mild climate and volcanic soil.
Gitega is a mountainous area found in the very centre of Burundi. Average temperatures here range from 12 to 18 degrees Celsius, and rainfall here is much lower than other parts of Burundi. It is here in Gitega that you’ll find a coffee lab that is responsible for testing the quality of coffee exports.
Northern province Bubanza borders Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Farm altitudes here generally lie between 1100 to 2000 MASL.
The majority of coffee found in Burundi is a Bourbon varietal, which tends to be one of the sweeter varietals with a fuller body. Acidity and tasting notes can vary from region to region, with main notes including citrus, melon and berry flavours. A cup of Burundi coffee should have quite clear and crisp flavours that cut through in both black and white coffees.
For the month of August, we have a lovely Burundi coffee from Nkongwe Hill, Muyange. These beans have some strong melon, pomegranate and red berry notes, with finishing flavours of chocolate and caramel. It has a low acidity and a soft body, suiting both black and white coffees. Get some while you can by clicking the product image below!