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Article: Burundi | Defying Obstacles & Becoming a Force in the Coffee World

Coffee Origins

Burundi | Defying Obstacles & Becoming a Force in the Coffee World

Burundi History and Geography

We have had the privilege of offering some unique and delicious coffees from Burundi (br•oon•dee) over the years. Not many people are aware of Burundian beans, or even the country as a whole. I am hoping to change that by shedding some light on this thriving coffee-growing region.

Wedged between Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Dominican Republic of Congo, Burundi is equivalent to the size of Maryland and has a population of 11 million people. Burundi was formed in the early 17th century and ruled by a king, also known as a Mwami. Before Burundi established its independence from Belgium in 1962, the country was ruled by many different European entities and experienced a very tumultuous past. Between droughts, famines, and rebellions, Burundians have experienced immense loss and unthinkable atrocities throughout most of their history. It was not until August of 2000 that Burundi finally experienced some peace with the authorization of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. Despite all of their adversities, Burundians were resilient and used their limited resources and coffee crops to forge ahead and rebuild their economy.

Coffee is essential to the economy in Burundi as 600,000 to 800,000 farmers are involved in its production. As you can probably guess based on those numbers, coffee is Burundi’s leading export. Coffee was first introduced to Burundi by the Belgians in the 1930s when they started importing Arabica coffee seeds. In the beginning, the coffee sector was privately owned but because of their numerous political disruptions, it eventually disintegrated altogether. In 1976, the regulation of the coffee sector switched over to the state with mixed success. In 2008, the World Bank privatized the industry again allowing private cooperatives to own mills and washing stations. A coffee project funded by the World Bank called the Coffee Sector Competitiveness Support Project was established in 2016. This project increased Burundi’s coffee production by over 15% by improving its infrastructure and providing affordable resources.

Like many other African countries, Burundi has the ideal environment for growing coffee. The topography is very hilly, perfect for cultivating coffee trees, and the trees are grown between 1,200 and 2,000 meters above sea level. Around 25 million coffee plants are harvested on more than 60,000 hectares of land. The majority of coffee plants are Arabica, and most of them are of the Bourbon variety. 

Although small, Burundi is a mighty and prosperous country in the coffee world. Even though coffee production has been somewhat of a roller coaster with its ups and downs, they have persevered and become a dark horse in the worldwide coffee market. Burundian farms are meticulous with their processes, and that attention to detail truly makes a difference in the quality and uniformity of their coffee. 

Burundi Coffee Flavor Profile

Coffees from Burundi are one-of-a-kind and beloved for their juicy acidity, bright stone fruit notes, and rich body. Burundi’s wet-processed beans are unique and often “double fermented” or “double washed” for 12 hours after they are depulped and before they are dried. This particular process produces a very delicious and clean cup. The sweet and clean characteristics of Burundian coffee are often compared to their neighboring country, Rwanda. The flavors you discover from a Burundi bean are balanced and refined. They have the extraordinary ability to deliver a citrusy brightness while also harmonizing with caramelly flavors. This versatility allows any coffee connoisseur to discover a Burundian coffee they enjoy!  

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