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We are excited to welcome back our friends from The Long Miles Coffee Project to the subscription program, after a difficult harvest in Burundi.
We visited their mills in northern Burundi last year and were very impressed by their commitment, both to producing delicious coffees and to providing support to the smallholder farmers they work with, often under rather difficult conditions.
Burundi is a very rural country, with only 13% of the population living in urban areas. Of this rural population, many are smallholder farmers, mainly subsistence with a small production of cash crops, such as coffee.
Therefore the support provided to these populations by projects like Long Miles is of great importance, and we feel committed to support their work in any way we can.
Due to the difficult harvest this year, Long Miles have had to look outside of the areas they normally purchase from, and purchase cherry from neighbouring hills, and processed coffee from neighbouring mills.
The first coffee is a classic washed Burundi profile, a washed process lot from the nearby Gatukuza mill. Here we find a crisp balance between redcurrant acidity and honey sweetness, followed by a characteristic rooibos tea finish.
The second coffee is a naturally processed lot from smallholders on the Nzove hill, dried at Long Miles’ Heza station. This is a wilder representation of Burundian terroir, with soft berry jam followed by tropical fruit and a rich brown sugar sweetness.
This month both of your coffees come from our long term partners at Long Miles. The Long Miles Project, founded by Ben and Kristy Carlson, opened its doors in 2013 and aims to raise the bar of specialty coffees coming out of Burundi. The project works with more than 4.500 individual coffee farmers living near two central washing stations, Bukeye, opened in 2013 and Heza, from 2014. There are several reasons why producing speciality coffee in Burundi is an incredibly difficult task. There’s the incredibly unstable political situation, where government can change rules on coffee prices and production seemingly overnight, the geographical constraints that come with being a small landlocked country attempting to export coffee by sea freight, the constant threat of military coup. But through it all the Carlson family have managed to establish themselves as producers and exporters of consistently delicious coffees, all the while providing some semblance of stability to the lives of smallholder farmers that surround their two washing stations in the northern Kayanza Province, near the border with Rwanda.
This year has been a particularly difficult one in Burundi. Yields on trees are down, and a flare-up in the political situation led to logistical difficulties, both for farmers taking cherry to processing stations, and for projects like Long Miles transporting processed coffee out of the country. This has meant Long Miles have had to look for alternative channels to buy enough quality coffee to export. Both coffees this month are examples of this. The first coffee is washed lot from the nearby Gatukuza mill to the east, and the second is a natural lot from Long Miles’ Heza mill, but consists of cherry purchased from the neighbouring Nzove hill for the first time.
1st coffee - Burundi
Gatukuza - Washed Bourbon
Redcurrant, Honey and Rooibos
(250g / 8.8oz)
This lot was sourced from the Gatukuza station, located in the Ngozi provinces, slightly further east of Long Miles’ stations in Kayanza. Though the station has been producing coffee since it was built in 2008, 2019 marked a great step in the quality the station was producing. This was the first year they kept day lots, making sure that careful logs were kept of which farmers delivered into each day lot. The staff at Gatukuza also cupped each lot that they created this year, attempting to create a pattern of what led to the highest quality. These steps paid off, as a lot from Gatukuza won the Burundian Cup of Excellence this year, with a score of 90.13.
At Gatukuza, there are two cherry reception tanks, where the mill workers deliver the sorted cherry before fermentation. From here, the cherries travel through either of two large depulpers, to any of the nine dry fermentation tanks. Similar to most washed coffees from Burundi, the depulped seeds are first fermented without water, here for around eight hours. The coffee is then washed using the ‘footing’ method, where mill workers add water then stomp on the coffee in order to remove the now fermented mucilage. The coffee is then moved to one of the nine wet fermentation tanks, where it is fermented again with water, again for around eight hours. Finally, the coffee is sorted for density along floating channels, and sorted visually on pre-drying tables, before they are ready for drying. At Gatukuza, traditional African raised drying beds are used, in order to slowly dry washed coffees in between 14 and 21 days. This lot specifically is one of the cleanest we have tasted out of Burundi this year, with a crisp redcurrant acidity balanced by a deep honey-like sweetness, followed by those typical Burundian herbal notes of rooibos in the finish.
2nd coffee - Burundi
Nzove - Natural Bourbon
Blackberry, Mango and Brown Sugar
(250g / 8.8oz)
This lot was processed at Long Miles’ Heza station, but is made up of coffee grown on the Nzove hill, a little further from the station, in the Gatara commune to the North. Due to the very low yields, the Long Miles team had to cast their net slightly further afield this year when searching for high quality cherry to process at their stations. Heza employs around 300 people, including over 100 women devoted to quality control in the final parchment sorting process. Heza also helps local farmers by supplying trees from a coffee tree nursery with over 15,000 seedlings, and the intention is to plant these all over the war-torn Burundi countryside in years to come.
Then Heza station has recently begun to produce naturally processed coffees, a relatively new phenomenon in Burundi. As there are less opportunities for sorting during processing when compared to a washed process, the incoming cherry has to be of very high quality. Coffees destined for natural processing are first painstakingly hand sorted by the team at Heza, as once the cherries begin to dry and blacken, it is very difficult to spot any defective seeds. After sorting, the cherries are transferred to raised drying beds and dried slowly for around 30 days, allowing a rounder jammy flavour to reveal itself, reminiscent of blackberry jam, followed by wild tropical fruit and the characteristic Burundian rooibos notes shining through in the finish.
Subscribe to get this months coffees
Available from the 27th of April to the 20th of May
We’re excited to share these two coffees from Long Miles this month, a small and focussed team doing excellent work in the face of very real and almost constant adversity. The work that Long Miles have done over the last few harvest seasons, in terms of both quality and support to their community, has been truly inspiring to us. We are excited to be able to share their work with you, and through this, continue to support them in their endeavour to provide better conditions for the rural population of Burundi.
Read more about the history of the Long Miles Project here
Stay bright and curious - John Gibson
Two Unique Coffees Every Month
La Cabra is a modern coffee roastery based out of Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark. Every month we ship out two unique coffee experiences and provide insight into how these coffees were grown and processed by talented producers.