Burundi is a small and mountainous landlocked country in east-central Africa, situated between Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
East Africa is well-known for producing high-quality coffee and Burundi is not an exception. While the yield here, compared to other African countries, is very small, Burundi coffee farmers pay exceptional attention to detail.
Burundi has the second lowest GDP per capita in the world and is considered one of the ten poorest world nations, but the fact that coffee production is a major contributor to the national economy motivates the farmers and provides reasons to develop the coffee cultivation further.
What does Burundi coffee taste like? Why does coffee plant thrive in this country? And what are the best coffees you can buy?
We’ll explore the not-so-well-known world of Burundi coffee.
Coffee Cultivation And A 100% Export
Coffee cultivation in this small country began in the 1930s when the Belgians brought the first arabica coffee plants into the region. While today, there are some robusta varieties grown in Burundi, the majority of the plants remain arabica coffee beans.
While Burundi’s coffee yield cannot be compared to some other African countries such as Kenya or Ethiopia, it is still the 29th largest coffee growing country in the world. More interestingly, the full 100% of the coffee produced in the country gets exported, which in 2015 added up to more than 36,1181,424 lbs of coffee.
Burundi’s coffee industry faced some serious challenges especially due to political instability, these are finally beginning to smooth out. Nowadays, more than 800,000 Burundi families are involved in coffee growing. These smallholders average at around 250 trees each and more often than not produce other crops and livestock alongside the coffee beans.
With around 25 million coffee plants on more than 60,000 hectares, you will mostly find bourbon variety, which is known for its great sweetness and body. The coffee is wet-processed, and as typical to Africa, double washed or double fermented, which results in a cleaner and brighter flavor profile.
What Does Burundi Coffee Taste Like?
Burundi coffees are often compared to the coffees from Rwanda, the country which Burundi borders with. Showcasing characteristics typical for African coffee, you can expect a clean delicate flavor, rich body, and bright acidity.
The coffee from this country can show some wild and fruity notes. They have a sweet berry taste, floral notes, hints of citrus, blueberry, or even pineapple.
The coffees that grow at a higher altitude have even more pronounced acidity and citric notes, and often reach a Specialty Coffee Association score of 86 or higher. The lower altitude coffees have a little less body and showcase flavors of chocolate and hazelnut.
Climate That Makes Coffee Thrive
Burundi has favorable conditions for growing coffee with a varied altitude across the country. The lowest point is at Lake Tanganyika in the west, 772 meters above sea level, and the highest is at 2,670 meters at the summit of Mount Heha. This allows most of the coffee to be Strictly High Grown (SHG) and Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) and most of the beans are grown at around 1200-2000 meters above sea level.
Additionally, the perfect coffee growing environment is boosted by 12,000 mm of annual rainfall and the volcanic soil that is rich in nutrients that add flavor to coffee.
Here are some brief characteristics of the main coffee farming regions in Burundi.
A region in the North of Burundi, bordering Rwanda, is one of the main regions where a lot of quality coffee can be found. And Kayanza and Ngozi regions deserve as special mention within the Buyenzi area.
This is a region with mild weather and average temperatures of around 64 degrees F where most of the farms are located at an altitude of between 1,7000 and 2,00 meters above sea level.
These conditions produce coffee that has high acidity and profound citric notes. The coffee from this region gets high SCA ratings and has scored a 91.09 in the Cup of Excellence.
Located Northeast of Burundi, Ngozi has similar conditions and elevation but a lower yield than can be found in the Kayanza region. It is of excellent quality as well, being awarded impressive scores above 85 by SCA.
The region located in the Northeast of Burundi bordering Tanzania has an average elevation of around 1800 meters above sea level. It has typical Burundian conditions featuring mild climate, rich volcanic soil, and plentiful rainfall of around 1,300 mm annually.
Other regions in Burundi include:
- Bugesera, Kirundo
Buying Burundi Coffee
As mentioned before, Burundi is not a significant player among other giants in coffee production, but it is still a country that grows and exports a substantial quantity of delicious coffee. It has been featured as a part of the Starbucks reserve program as well to raise awareness of this coffee origin.
Let’s have a look at some of the best picks we’ve found.
Barbarossa Coffee, Burundi Whole Beans
Coffee from Burundi is best brewed as a single origin using a French press or a pour-over to truly experience its unique flavors. The award-winning beans from Barbarossa coffee are handcrafted, artisan, and roasted to order, ensuring the freshness that lets the flavors be manifested authentically.
This is a medium-dark roast that went through the natural processing method, which means a rich body and acidity. Some of the delicate flavors of this coffee include sweet berry as well as jasmine and hibiscus.
Airis Coffee Roasters, Burundi Kinyovu Whole Bean Coffee
This International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) certified coffee supports the women empowerment in the global coffee industry and they practice direct trade with Kinyovu washing station where the coffee is produced.
What makes this one unique is the innovative air roasting technique, a method that is still used only by 1% of the roasters worldwide. Their advanced air roasting process allows them to produce the brightest and cleanest flavor notes possible and a taste that is beyond compare. The tasting notes include pineapple, hibiscus, green tea, and toffee.
For Five Coffee Roasters Burundi Light Roast
For Five Coffee source their beans from the Burambi region in Burundi and roast it in Queens in New York City by coffee enthusiasts passionate about bringing out the best flavor notes.
As we’ve shown, Burundi coffees show their uniqueness the best when roasted medium so that the delicate flavors are not overpowered by the roasting process. The New York roasters choose a medium-light roast or a 2 out of 5 roast profile resulting in a mellow flavor with dominant tasting notes of melon, cherry, and a pronounced winey finish.
Add Burundi To Your Coffee Radar
Even though the amount of green coffee produced in this small country cannot compare to some other African countries such as Ethiopia or Kenya, it is of exceptional quality and achieves high specialty coffee ratings.
The ideal climate conditions together with nutritious volcanic soil contribute to citric, fruity, and bright-tasting notes in their coffee beans.
It is a region that is worth discovering and putting on your coffee radar.