We love Burundi coffees for their unique characteristics; not exactly like you would find in Ethiopia, but also not quite like a Kenyan. This coffee made us think of the colours yellow and lilac and the colour we chose for the sticker reflects that. We instantly thought of lavender, chamomile, yellow plums, golden raisins and brown sugar.
Informaiton on processing:
All coffee trees in Burundi are Red Bourbon, which is tightly controlled by the government for reasons of quality. Because of the increasingly small size of coffee plantings, aging rootstock is a very big issue in Burundi. Many farmers have trees that are over 50 years old, but with small plots to farm, it is difficult to justify taking trees entirely out of production for the 3-4 years it will take new plantings to begin to yield. Despite the ubiquity of coffee growing in Burundi, each smallholder producers a relatively small harvest. The average smallholder has approximately 250 trees, normally in their backyards. Each tree yields an average of 1.5 kilos of cherry so the average producer sells about 200-300 kilos of cherry annually. Approximately 70% of the total coffee yield in Burundi is processed as fully washed, like this lot.
Quality assurance begins as soon as farmers deliver their cherry. Cherries are wet-processed under constant supervision. The pulping, fermentation time, washing, grading in the channels and a final soaking is closely monitored. All cherry is floated in small buckets as a first step to check quality. Greenco still purchases floaters (damaged, underripe, etc) but immediately separates the two qualities and only markets floaters as B-quality cherry. After floating, the higher quality cherry is sorted again by hand to remove all damaged, underripe and overripe cherries.
After sorting, cherry is pulped within 6 hours of delivery. The machine can process up to 3 tons of cherries per hour. During pulping, cherry is separated into high- and low-grade by density on a Mackinon 3-disc pulper outfitted with an additional separation disk. The coffee is then fermented in water from a nearby stream for 10-12 hours, depending on ambient temperature. A small sign on the fermentation tank keeps track of each lot. The sign mentions the washing station name, date of cherry purchase, grade of the bean and the time when fermentation began. Trained agronomists check the beans by hand regularly to ensure fermentation is halted at the perfect time. The station workers trample the parchment for 30 minutes in the fermentation tank. This trampling process helps to remove mucilage on the fermented parchment. After this, the parchment is washed in clean water and moved into the washing-grading canal.
As the beans flow through the washing-grading canal, wooden bars that are laid across the canal prevent beans of specific densities from passing through. These bars are spaced across the channel. While the first blockade stops the most-dense beans, the next is arranged to stop the second most-dense beans and so on. In total, the channel separates beans into seven grades according to density. After washing, parchment is poured onto wooden trays or nylon bags and carried to the drying tables, each in its separate quality group. Each tray and nylon bag of parchment keeps its traceability tag with all info.
Parchment will slowly dry for 2-3 weeks. Pickers go over the drying beans for damaged or defective beans that may have been missed in previous quality checks. Usually, each table holds 800kg of parchment. In the peak of the season, the maximum load for a table is 1000kg. Each table has a traceability tag with the lot info. The parchment is left to dry from sunrise to sunset and is covered with a plastic sheet during the evening or when it rains. During this time, parchment is turned regularly to ensure even drying. The moisture level is carefully monitored and any parchment with visual defects is removed.