Much about Burundi’s coffee is the same or similar to that of Rwanda’s. The approach, the desire to get out of a violent past and cast a new light on the possibilities for the country, and even the varietals offered; Red Bourbon, Catuai, and Caturra. Also like Rwanda, coffee is the largest commercial sector in Burundi, standing at 80% of the country’s export revenue with 55% of the population employed by the coffee industry (2012).
Another major factor similar to the history of coffee in Rwanda is that Burundi’s coffee industry was for decades, probably since its inception in 1930, focused entirely on quantity over quality and big universal batches versus small and unique lots. From there, though, Rwanda and Burundi’s production begin to differ, especially from the mid 1980’s to the present. Privatization of processing stations in Burundi began in the eighties due to pressures from the World Bank and at that time it undermined the rights, wages, and ability to survive for the producers.
Privatization reforms began again almost immediately, albeit more cautiously. By 2007 it was supported by Burundi’s president that the coffee belonged entirely to the producers until it was sold. This allowed for farmers to own 72% of their supply chain. This year (2013), though, there has been extended privatization of processing stations once again, cutting into the producers ability to control and profit from their supply chains. This privatization is a split ownership between the Burundian government and private enterprises with 14% of shares of processing stations, or sogestals, being owned by the government and the remainder by private investors.
The United Nations has warned the Burundian government against such moves, though it looks like the move will go forward. What this will mean specifically for farmers, it is hard to say, but after such a successful Cup of Excellence in 2012, it is certainly hoped the industry over that conditions for and coffees from Burundi’s farmers only continues to improve.
Here at Mr. Green Beans we currently offer just one fine coffee from Burundi, of the Kizibi washing station located North of Lake Tanganyika and just south of the Rwanda/Burundi border. This coffee is from the Kizibi Micro Lot #4, is fully washed then dried in the sun on raised beds. It brings to your cup a perfect cleanliness with softer fruits such as pear and fresh peaches. It provides roasted nuts and raw cocoa to finish out the drinking experience.