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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.
A difficult year in Burundi
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.
If we don’t feel that a coffee suits our style or what we like to present, we simply won’t buy it. Sometimes this leads to issues in green buying; we have to pay very close attention, to a level of green quality that will support this approach, and to how this will develop over the life of a coffee. We are required to focus heavily on the freshness of coffee, both green and roasted, to avoid introducing taints into our cups. We always use clean and fresh water, of an ideal mineral content to present the coffee in its best possible light. Once we have the correct roasting profile, water, and coffee age, the act of brewing is much more simple. A wide variance in brewing parameters can still produce delicious and transparent cups. It is also important to note that this is not always the most consistent approach. The coffee is laid completely bare, so any flaw with the raw material is clearly on show. We could often develop some coffees slightly more, to make them more approachable or easy to work with, but wavering from our philosophy like this would compromise our commitment to complete transparency in coffee.
The washed process involves completely removing both the cherry and the mucilage from the outside of the parchment with the use of friction, fermentation and water. After being harvested, the coffee cherry is then sliced open by either a metal or a sharp plastic blade. The two seeds (also known as beans) are pushed out of the cherry, which leaves the seed with mucilage as their outermost layer. It is essential in the washed process that all mucilage is removed from the seed which leaves only the flavor that developed in the cell structure of the seed prior to processing.
You can brew our coffees any way you want it is just a matter of the right ratios.