When many of us think of East Africa, often notions of “the birthplace of coffee” come up. Vibrant, expressive coffees often come to mind as well. But for Burundi, coffee is a relatively new concept, and for specialty coffee even more so. With a recent painful colonial past and a tumultuous last few decades, it’s only been over the last decade or so that the idea of selling top coffees to an eager international market was possible and worth pursuing.
Nemba is a washing station that works with smallholder farmers who deliver from the hills of Gitwa, Mikuba and Nkonge. They work with Greenco for export and they aren’t strangers to the Cup of Excellence competition – taking home 1st place in 2015. To be honest they do pretty freaking well every year – Go ahead and take a look on the COE website – They have a nice track record and their continuous efforts really show in this lot that we get to work with.
The type of washed processing method in Burundi is pretty similar to Kenya, with a fermentation without water of around 12 hours after depulping, followed by a soak of 12–14 hours in water. The washed seeds are then floated to sort for density, then they’re soaked again for 12–18 hours before being dried in parchment on shaded, raised beds. This lot was harvested in May-Early June of 2018.
Some roasters are fairly uneasy with Burundi (and Rwanda) coffees because occasionally, a bean can have something called potato taste defect. This can happen in any coffee from around the African Great Lakes and is very obvious when present (it smells like raw potato).
Fortunately, in well-processed lots (like the one you have here) it is a rare occurrence. For the coffee professionals among us, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, ok? For us anyway, the beauty and vibrancy of great coffees from this area of Burundi far outweigh the risk.
This particular lot from Nemba washing station represents the efforts of the 3000 farmers who deliver there, all growing red Bourbon – and as we round the corner of winter into the spring, this is a nice coffee to hang out with. A deep resiny sweetness (think Medjool dates) is ever present, and floral fruits like quince provide the backup complexity and brightness.