Altitude: 1800 meters
Varietal: Red Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Blueberry, Floral, Lemon
Gakenke station was built in 1991. With 224 drying beds, the station can process up to 750 metric tons per season. The station has 2 flotation tanks, 10 fermentation tanks, and 2 soaking tanks. The drying field has 150 raised beds.
Gakenke station has 2,685 registered farmer members, spread over 22 hills in Gatare commune, Kayanza province. These are organized in groups of 30 people, headed by a producer leader to facilitate communication and organization with the washing station. The farmers typically have an average of 250 trees.
The washing station participates in a number of farmer outreach and support projects including a livestock rearing project and a range of Farmer Hub projects centered on strengthening cooperatives and improving yields.Most coffee trees in Burundi are Red Bourbon for reasons of quality. Because of the increasingly small size of coffee plantings, aging rootstock is a very big issue in Burundi. Many farmers have trees that are over 50 years old, but with small plots to farm, it is difficult to justify taking trees entirely out of production for the 3 to 4 years it will take new plantings to begin to yield. In order to encourage farmers to renovate their plantings, Greenco purchases seeds from the Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU), establishes nurseries and sells the seedlings to farmers at or below cost.
Despite the ubiquity of coffee growing in Burundi, each smallholder produces a relatively small harvest. The average smallholder has approximately 250 trees, normally in their backyards. Each tree yields an average of 1.5 kilos of cherry so the average producer sells about 200 to 300 kilos of cherry annually.During the harvest season, all coffee is selectively handpicked. Most families only have 200 to 250 trees, and harvesting is done almost entirely by the family.
After sorting, the cherry is transported directly to the drying tables where they will dry slowly for 3 to 4 weeks. Cherry is laid out in a single layer. Pickers go over the drying cherry for damaged or defective cherry that may have been missed in previous quality checks. The washing station is very strict about allowing only the highest quality cherry to complete the drying process.
Once dry, the parchment is then bagged and taken to the warehouse. Greenco’s team of expert cuppers assess every lot (which are separated by station, day and quality) at the lab. The traceability of the station, day and quality is maintained throughout the entire process.
Before shipment, coffee is sent to Budeca, Burundi’s largest dry mill. The coffee is milled and then hand sorted by a team of hand-pickers who look closely at every single bean to ensure zero defects. It takes a team of two hand-pickers a full day to look over a single bag. UV lighting is also used on the beans and any bean that glows (which is usually an indication of a defect) is removed.
Burundi has long been overlooked in comparison to its neighboring East African specialty coffee producing powerhouses. However, Burundi season, for us, is one of the highlights of the annual coffee calendar. The country’s coffee is produced almost entirely by smallholder farmers, and much of this small-scale production is of exceptional quality. With its super sweet, clean and often floral coffees, Burundi, every year, is increasingly putting itself on the specialty coffee map.
Coffee is of paramount importance to families and the country at large. Considering this, improving and expanding coffee infrastructure is not just a way to improve incomes, it is a way to revolutionize the earning potential of an entire nation.
Building washing stations and expanding agricultural extension work can be great ways to improve coffee quality. Washing stations are pivotal in improving cup profile standards and the global reputation of Burundian coffee.
Both state-owned and private actors drive Burundi’s coffee industry and play key roles as washing station management companies and exporters. State-owned companies are called Sogestals, short for “Sociétés de Gestions des Stations de Lavage” (Washing station management companies). Privately-owned companies can operate under a variety of different names.
Sucafina’s history in Burundi goes back to 2007 when Bucafe/Sucafina Burundi was established in Bujumbura. Through Bucafe, we work with several privately-owned washing station management companies and exporters. Our work bridges the entire supply chain, allowing us to be vertically integrated. Our supply chain is solid, reliable and transparent. Due to this, we are more efficient, able to supply better value and positioned to offer both producers and consumers of Burundian coffee a diversity of expertise.