I think one of the best parts of traveling - asides from learning about fascinating cultures and meeting amazing people - is the fresh and local produce. I just ate a bundle of bananas for lunch and I'm thrilled about it. In Rwanda and Burundi, the bananas have an acidity to them and taste like lemonade. No joke. The avocados, the melons, the citruses, you name it, it's off the charts - just like the coffee.
We've just spent a day and a half in Burundi. Our first time visiting the country. We landed in Rwanda on Monday night and drove out first thing Tuesday. They're both incredibly small countries in the East of Africa and both fascinating in their own regard.
The drive from Kigali to Ngozi, where we spent the night, was about three and a half hours. On a map it doesn't look like it should take that long, but once you hit the border and wait for the officials to stamp your passport to allow entry, then you change cars because it's more convenient with the cooresponding license plate, then you wait at half a dozen random police checkstops, it starts to add a decent amount of time to the journey...
When we arrived in Ngozi, we went straight to the cupping lab/office of Green Co. They're a very well renowned company in the Burundi coffee industry as they were awarded 8 of the top 10 coffees in Cup of Excellence (COE) in 2017, and have a similar track record for previous seasons. Pretty insane to dominate like that. Our visit was very early in their harvest so we only were able to cup last years crop they had from COE. This gave us an idea of the flavor profiles to expect when they
From there, we went to two nearby stations they own called Nemba and Masha, both of which have similar set ups for consistency sake. Similar to Rwanda, they strictly grow Red Bourbon and for the most part do washed coffeesz We spent some time at both washing stations, got to meet the full time teams and see their drying tables, some processing and operations at each. This consumed the rest of the day as the sun is down by 6pm here. We retired back to the hotel then went to a nearby restaurant for a Burundian meal of goat leg, french fries and thankfully a bit of salad.
We realized how off the grid we were when we left the restaurant and it was darkness on the streets. There are no street lights here or lighting to guide you, yet it seemed as if everyone who lived in Ngozi was on the streets socializing, drinking or eating. We made it back to the hotel, navigating the streets with just the headlights on the truck - we were not driving. As we were settling in and getting ready to call it a night, the power was completely lost at the hotel and darkness fell. Thankfully this only last about 5 minutes and the darkness was replaced by the sound of a generator running outside. Just in time for us to turn the lights off and call it a night.
In the morning we woke up early - mostly thanks to the roosters and the groups of joggers that sing while they run... - to meet with a small producer named Zuberi. He was very excited to hear we were interested in seeing his projects, Mpanga and Businde. These are washing stations that are also buying cherry from surrounding coffee farmers and producing the majority as washed coffee. Both however had some naturals that we had mixed impressions about. Some of the tables were clean and uniform and looked very promising, others were poor cherry selection, little to no sorting and far too much cherry on one bed. We gave our feedback and hopefully Zuberi took it to heart. He seems very interested in becoming the best specialty coffee producer in Burundi.
With visiting the two scales of coffee producer in Burundi, we feel as if we can add more value to Zuberi and help him out, although the quality of his coffee wont be as high as Green Co this season. This to us is the beauty of establishing relationships with coffee producers, as we can communicate throughout the year and discuss ideas and collaborate on improvements or innovations. Similar to how we do with other countries - such as Rwanda and our partners Muraho Trading Co, which we're driving back to Kigali right now to meet with and visit their amazing stations for a second straight season. Stay tuned to see updates from our visits last year. FYI, some of these tasty Rwandans are still on the menu.
Burundi will hopefully be available on the menu late this year.
Zuberi wondering why we're applying white lotion to all exposed skin