Even if you’re a seasoned coffee drinker, you may be unfamiliar with Burundi coffee. Burundi is a small African country in the eastern-central part of the continent, sandwiched between Rwanda and Tanzania. Rwanda and Tanzania are both more well-known coffee producers, producing many times more coffee per year than Burundi. Despite its lower production volumes, the Republic of Burundi is making its mark in the specialty coffee world.
This article will take you on a tour of Burundi coffee that no coffee connoisseur should miss. Burundi beans have a lot to offer and some distinct characteristics that other African coffees lack. If you’re curious about what distinguishes Burundi coffee and what contributes to its growing popularity, this is the guide for you.
Introducing Burundi Coffee
Burundi began producing coffee in the 1930s, after Belgian colonists introduced Arabica coffee to the region. Arabica still accounts for the majority of coffee grown in Burundi, contributing to the country’s reputation as a producer of high-quality coffee.
Burundi’s climate and ecology make it ideal for coffee cultivation, which is not surprising given its proximity to other major African coffee-producing countries. Coffee grows best in hot, humid climates, with nitrogen-rich soil and at high altitudes. Burundi checks all of those boxes and, as an added bonus, has large areas at high elevations where volcanic soil – a particularly nitrogen-rich type of soil – is abundant.
It might be surprising that Burundi isn’t more well-known or productive given how perfect its climate is for coffee farming. Although Burundi’s coffee exports are small in comparison to other African coffee giants like Kenya and Ethiopia, they are sufficient to place the country as the 29th largest coffee producer in the world.
Burundi is a relatively small country — geographically speaking — and only has a population of around 11.5 million as of 2019. Nonetheless, an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 families work in the coffee industry, representing a staggering percentage of the total population.
Flavors and Varieties
Burundi coffee shares many characteristics with other African coffee. Thanks to the high growing elevations, Burundi coffee is fruity and bright with citrus, floral notes, and even hints of honey and pineapple. Burundi coffee has a distinct flavour due to blueberry notes and subtle hints of passionfruit in some beans.
Not all Burundi coffee tastes the same, and some of the flavour differences are due to different growing altitudes. The highest elevations produce the most fruity coffee, whereas beans grown at lower elevations often taste more chocolatey and nutty.
Most coffee that’s grown in Burundi is Arabica, but there are some regions that specialise in growing Robusta beans. We prefer Arabica beans in general, but especially when it comes to African coffee. Arabica is less harsh and bitter, and it allows the subtler flavours to shine through.
Getting the Most out of Burundi Beans
Pour-over coffee is our favourite way to brew most African beans because it produces a bright, vibrant cup, and we also recommend it for Burundi coffee. Burundi beans have floral and fruity flavour notes that shine in a pour-over. Pour-over makes sense for high-altitude-grown Burundi coffee because the natural flavours in the bean match the flavours highlighted by pour-over coffee. Of course, you can use whatever method you prefer, and we’re not saying that brewing Burundi coffee in a French press or another immersion brewer will result in a bad cup of coffee.
Another factor to consider is the roast level. When we buy African coffee, we stick to light roasts for the same reasons we prefer pour-over. Light roasts retain more of the natural flavour of the bean, which can be easily overpowered by a medium or dark roast. Roasting is an art in and of itself, but when it comes to coffee, a light roast is the only way to go.
One last point to mention is how the coffee is processed. Washed coffee is the most popular specialty coffee processing method because, once again, the taste of the coffee bean is relatively unaltered when compared to unwashed coffee. Almost all Burundi coffee is not only washed, but also double-washed, giving you the most accurate representation of the bean’s true flavours. You won’t have to look too hard to find washed Burundi coffee because it’s the norm rather than the exception.
A Final Word
Burundi coffee lacks the name recognition and weight enjoyed by other African coffees, but don’t dismiss it. If you enjoy high-acidity, full-bodied coffee with fruity, floral flavours and enjoy other African coffee, you’ll enjoy Burundi coffee.
We recommend brewing Burundi coffee in a pour-over with a light roast. Pour-over coffee’s brewing philosophy complements the natural flavours found in Burundi coffee and light roasts. Of course, we encourage you to experiment with whatever brewer and roast level you want to find your favourite while discovering the diverse flavours Burundi coffee has to offer.
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