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Coffee production has been something of a roller coaster in Burundi, with wild ups and downs: During the country’s time as a Belgian colony, coffee was a cash crop, with exports mainly going back to Europe or to feed the demand for coffee by Europeans in other colonies. Under Belgian rule, Burundian farmers were forced to grow a certain number of coffee trees each—of course receiving very little money or recognition for the work. Once the country gained its independence in the 1960s, the coffee sector (among others) was privatized, stripping control from the government except when necessary for research or price stabilization and intervention. Coffee farming had left a bad taste, however, and fell out of favor; quality declined, and coffee plants were torn up or abandoned.

This bourbon arabica coffee grows between the soybeans, bananas, and Grevillea. The coffee is picked by a group of 210 farmers. On average each farmer has 300 trees. After picking the red cherries, the fruit is brought to the wet mill the same day. There the coffee is washed and fermented in water tanks between 14 and 16 hours. The parchment is then dried for 10 to 14 days, depending on the weather. The wet mill has 200 drying beds and stores the coffee in a ventilated warehouse.

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