Discovery Subscription (2021, 3) - The Long Miles Coffee Project

The Long Miles Coffee Project

  • We are excited to welcome back our friends from The Long Miles Coffee Project to the subscription program.

  • We last visited their mills in northern Burundi during the 2019 harvest, 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.

  • After a very difficult harvest last year, the project has bounced back, so we have been able to purchase lots from specific hills again, including these returning favourites from the Nkonge Hill.

  • The first coffee is a classic washed Burundi profile, a washed process lot from Nkonge. Here we find crisp and fresh currant notes, balanced by a concentrated sugary sweetness.

  • The second coffee is naturally processed, also from smallholders on the Nkonge hill. This is a wilder representation of Burundian terroir, with the typical currant notes softened and backed up by richer tropical fruit sweetness.

1 x coffee

Nkonge, Washed Bourbon (250g / 5.3oz)

2 x coffee

Nkonge, Washed Bourbon (250g / 5.3oz)
Nkonge, Natural Bourbon (250g / 5.3oz)

The Long Miles Coffee Project

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 past 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.

First coffee, Burundi
Nkonge, Washed Bourbon

A crisp berry-driven coffee

Look for: Redcurrant, Honey and Rooibos
(250g / 8.8oz)

The first coffee is a washed lot from the Nkonge hill, processed at the Heza Station. Heza uses a similar double fermentation process to that employed in Kenya, where the cherries are first depulped and fermented without water for around 12 hours, before water is added and the coffee is soaked for a further 12 hours. After this, the coffee is ‘footed’ to wash away the sticky mucilage layer attached to the outside of the coffee seed. This involves the workers stomping on the coffee in the tanks for 15-20 minutes while singing traditional Burundian songs, before the coffee is moved to washing channels to be rinsed in clean water, and graded for density before travelling to the drying tables. Coffee is then dried slowly on raised beds, aiming to reach a moisture level of 10.5% in 20-30 days. In this lot this leads to typical Burundian fresh currant character, balanced by concentrated sugary sweetness.

Second coffee, Burundi
Nkonge, Natural Bourbon

A rich and jammy natural coffee

Look for: Blackberry, Mango and Brown Sugar
(250g / 8.8oz)

The second coffee is also grown on the Nkonge hill and processed at the Heza station, but is processed as a natural. Heza has only 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 the typical currant notes to soften into a jammy character, complemented by rich tropical sweetness.

This month

Long Miles

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. 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. This means that 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.

Climate change

Climate change has had an effect on this year’s harvest in Burundi, with conditions straying wildy from established weather patterns. There was a great deal of rain during the flowering season, destroying some of the delicate coffee blossom, and a lack of rain during the ripening season led to reduced yield compared to projections. However, the 2020 harvest was much more successful than an incredibly difficult 2019, with yields up and logistics less disturbed. This means we have been able to purchase lots separated by individual hills, and are excited to once again share two coffees from the Nkonge hill. For this month your first coffee is a crisp washed lot from Nkonge, while the second is a softer rich natural.

Nkonge hill

A hill is the smallest unit of separation in Burundi, like small communes, and most contain a couple of hundred smallholder farmers. We have purchased coffees grown on several of the hills in the past, and each seems to have their own distinct character. Nkonge is known for being rather quiet, with a slow pace of life not found elsewhere in the region. Dirt roads cut into the hill’s steep slopes, revealing panoramic views of banana trees and lush tea plantations. Sadly, life hasn’t always been so peaceful on Nkonge hill. The most recent civil war in Burundi brought great losses. Many farming families that fled returned to the hill only to find that their land had been divided or taken over by someone else. The high elevation of Nkonge fosters harder, slower growing coffee, and therefore intensity and complexity of flavour. Natural springs find their way out of the hill, making sure its soils are always well watered. Patches of onions, tea, wheat, cabbage, maize, cassava and peas can be found growing alongside coffee in the hill’s rich soils. With the help of coffee scouts Minani and Thierry, the scouts dedicated to the Nkonge hill, farmers are slowly rejuvenating their farms. The scouts are contributing greatly to farmers’ knowledge on growing and taking care of their coffee.

Nkonge is one of the hills that delivers cherry to Long Miles’ Heza station, alongside Gitwe and Mutana. The station sits at 1960 masl, and due to this the harvest here normally starts around two weeks later than Long Miles’ lower altitude station at Bukeye. This high altitude also leads to impressive views over the Kibira rainforest to Rwanda, which have given Heza its name; Heza means ‘beautiful place’ in Kirundi. Heza was built in January 2014, and now serves nearly 2,000 individual farmers. 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.

Excellent work in the face constant adversity

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 La Cabra

About Discovery

About Discovery

The opportunity to share new experiences

Our Discovery Subscription allows us the opportunity to share new experiences with you every month, taking you with us on our journey through the changing seasons of coffee. This allows you the opportunity to taste new lots from across the coffee landscape as they arrive at our roastery, when they’re fresh and in season. We strive to find the most delicious and thought-provoking coffees we can get our hands on, working together with a group of innovative and dedicated partners we have met over our years in the industry. We are inspired not only by sharing their painstakingly created raw material, but by conveying how each step of its journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest processing, or something else entirely.

We always aim to tell a story

One of the best ways to appreciate the effect of these factors is to taste coffees side by side. Our most popular option allows you to experience two coffees every month, maybe different varietals or processes from the same farm or region, or maybe two parallel lots from producers at opposite ends of the coffee belt. We always aim to tell a story with our coffee choice, focusing on a different aspect of what we’re finding exciting in coffee right now. Sharing these experiences each month allows us to expand our coffee horizons together, and develop a shared vocabulary within both taste and preference in coffee.

We’re always happy to continue our conversation with you through our webshop portal, whether it be purely practical, or discussions about this month’s coffees. We see our role as simply a middleman between you and some of the best coffees in the world, and the people who produce them. These people inspire us, and we do our utmost to share both their coffees and their stories with the people who appreciate them most.