This is our Burundi coffee guide.
You will learn what Burundi coffee is, what makes it special, and which varieties are considered the best.
Let's take a look.
Burundi Coffee Production History
The first Arabica coffee tree was introduced to Burundi by the Belgians in the early 1930s, and coffee has been grown in the country since then.
The Burundi coffee industry is known for its small coffee farms. In Burundi, families directly grow coffee beans. But there are so many of these families that coffee plantations cover a total area of about 70,000 hectares throughout the country, where about 122 million coffee trees are grown.
Burundi is a small landlocked country at the intersection of East and Central Africa, on the crest of the Nile-Congo watershed. Located between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania, Burundi has beautiful Lake Tanganyika along most of its western border.
The country is dominated by hills and mountains, and has significant variations in elevation, from the lowest point at 772 meters (at Lake Tanganyika) to the top of Mount Heha at 2,670 meters above sea level.
What's So Special About Burundi Coffee Beans?
Burundi coffee is certified organic coffee and environmentally friendly because the farmers that grow the coffee simply don't have the funds to buy chemicals like pesticides. Burundi coffee is often classified as specialty coffee. The beans themselves are of quite high quality—Burundi's coffee is valued for its aroma, acidity, and richness as well as its original, bright taste with floral notes.
All this is due to climate, not technology—Burundi coffee is grown on high-altitude plantations, where nature itself has created ideal conditions for the cultivation of coffee trees. If a certain plantation requires fertilizers for growth, then it will be something natural.
Burundi coffee is traditionally washed at stations that often use a two-stage fermentation method, as in Kenya. If the processed green coffee contains any unripe berries, the station will ask the farmer to take back those berries.
Many washing stations have large concrete basins in which farmers submerge green coffee berries, collecting so-called "floaters"—unripe berries.
Usually, the first 12- to 36-hour fermentation is done without water (aerobic) and the second is done with water (anaerobic), but this can vary from station to station.
Stations are located on slopes and the coffee is flushed out of the first, higher level of fermentation tanks and through a canal where the pulp is removed from the coffee cherry. The berries then land in a second layer of concrete tanks where they remain submerged in water.
Then one last rinse takes place, during which the beans pass through a concrete channel. Finally, the beans are placed on African drying beds, where manual defects are removed.
Burundi Coffee Varieties
The Bourbon variety is grown in Burundi. It is grown at high altitudes, from 1,250 to 2,000 meters above sea level.
The best Burundi coffee beans are from Ngozi, a highland coffee-growing region, almost all of which is occupied by plantations. But all Burundian coffee is supplied to the world market under the general name Burundi, rather than under regional names.
The quality of the coffee beans is determined in accordance with a special classification system that distinguishes seven types of coffee, from AAA (highest quality) to BBB (lowest quality). The best freshly roasted coffee produces a surprisingly good cup and has a bright fruity aroma and a rich natural flavor. However, these advantages appear only if the beans themselves are not spoiled during processing, storage, or transportation.
Even the poorest quality Burundi coffee is in demand outside the country. Its low price is its main advantage. In Europe, such coffee is most commonly used in blends because it adds a traceable African element to espresso.