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Origin Spotlight: Burundi

Posted by Lori White on

To find some of the world's most sought-after coffee, look toward East Africa. The legendary cradle of coffee remains one of its highest-regarded growing regions. And while Ethiopia and Kenya often take the spotlight, we're currently savoring the flavors of another amazing East African origin: Burundi.


What makes Burundian coffee unique?

Graced by sweeping mountains, winding rivers, and the world's second-largest freshwater lake, Burundi is a tiny country with many gifts. The combination of volcanic soil, high elevations, and nutrient-rich water sources makes for staggering beauty—and incredibly fertile land for growing coffee.

Naturally, such fertility didn't go unnoticed by European colonizers, who from 1884 through the mid-1900s occupied the small East African nation. Colonization left lasting impressions—many of them bad—on Burundian farming communities. Now, with land back in their own hands, Burundian farmers are cultivating some of the relics of this history. Including a varietal that's more commonly associated with Latin America: Bourbon.

Known for its fruity sweetness, Bourbon takes on entirely unique characteristics in Burundi. Nowhere else will you find this varietal produced at such towering elevations, often surpassing 2,000 meters above sea level. With a slower maturation rate on these high ranges, Burundian Bourbon develops a deep potency of flavor: well-rounded acidity, a complex body, and exceptionally bright fruitiness.

The proof is in the process

Another factor that makes Burundian coffee unique is their approach to processing. Here, farmers often use technology which is, one might argue, rather artisanal: a Kenyan disk pulper, which removes more fruit off the seed, resulting in exceptionally clean washed-process coffee. They also employ a Kenyan-style pulping and fermenting method.

Yet there is a way in which Burundians make processing uniquely their own. On some of our visits to Burundi, we witnessed as farmers engaged in a traditional dance, right in the fermentation tanks. They clapped and sang songs, stomping the cherry mucilage off the beans like winemakers treading on grapes. The result is a very clean-tasting coffee—embedded with a powerful piece of Burundian culture.

Coffee farm in Burundi

Brewing Burundian coffee

When it comes to drinking and enjoying Burundian coffee, you'll want to account for its clean profile, intensely fruity sweetness, and beautifully pronounced acidity. To get the best experience of all these, we highly prefer filter methods. Immersion brewers might run the risk of muddying a coffee that ought to pop with distinctive flavors. Opt instead for a Chemex or a pour over dripper, which will extract more of those complex characteristics.

As always, we suggest brewing with 205ºF hot water at a ratio of 1:17 ground coffee to water. For a pour over, use a medium grind setting. How medium? Depends on your brewer: think medium-coarse for a thick-filtered Chemex, medium-fine for a thin-filtered Hario V60.

And, finally, we suggest trying one of our amazing Burundian coffees currently on deck! Both beautiful expressions of a truly incredible origin: Gitwe Natural Micro Lot 4 and Gitwe Honey Micro Lot 1.

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