Sub Region: Muringa
Altitude: 1800 meters above sea level
Washing Station: Ngogomo
Farmers: many small holder farmers
Variety: Red Bourbon
Tasting Notes: Clean and bright with notes of chocolate and orange peel.
There are 1,802 smallholders living around Gasorwe, Burundi who deliver their cherry to Ngogomo Central Washing Station (CWS).
The History of Ngogomo CWS The story of coffee production on Ngogomo hill begins with a fisherman. The fisherman had made his livelihood catching fish in a stream near the location where the station is located today. When the fish disappeared, the fisherman, unable to find a reason or solution to the problem of the disappearing fish, switched to coffee farming. Coffee farming proved to be a more stable profession, especially considering the ideal climate and soil composition, which produced high quality cherry. Many of the neighbours of the farmer–turned–fisherman decided to follow suit and began farming their own coffee trees. The successful story of his coffee plants and the good quality of the cherries around the area meant that the people living nearby also started to grow coffee trees.
Ngogomo is one of the main stations in the province of Muyinga, It was constructed in 1992 and today serves more than 1,800 farmers on 18 hills. The station is overseen by sustainability and CWS manage Severin Nizigiyimana. With 10 fermentation tanks, 3 soaking tanks, 258 drying tables, 4 selection tables and 10 floating tanks the station can process up to 1,500 metric tonnes of cherry each season. The processing season runs from April to June. Ngogomo CWS also participates in a number of farmer outreach and support projects include a goat and pig project, Farmer Hub, strengthening cooperatives and distributing fertilizer and coffee trees.
We are excited to import this coffee from our in-country partner Bugestal. In addition to operating nine washing stations in Burundi and processing excellent coffee, Bugestal is also working with communities to increase farmer livelihoods and general equality in coffee producing areas.
Cultivation All coffee trees in Burundi are Red Bourbon, which is tightly controlled by the government for reasons of quality. Because of the increasingly small size of coffee plantings, aging rootstock is a very big issue in Burundi. Many farmers have trees that are over 50 years old, but with small plots to farm, it is difficult to justify taking trees entirely out of production for the 3-4 years it will take new plantings to begin to yield. In order to encourage farmers to rennovate their plantings, Bugestal purchases seeds from the Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU), establishes nurseries and sells the seedlings to farmers at or below cost. In 2018, their first year growing seedlings, Ngogomo CWS produced 72,377 seedlings.
Despite the ubiquity of coffee growing in Burundi, each smallholder producers a relatively small harvest. The average smallholder has approximately 250 trees, normally in their backyards. Each tree yields an average of 1.5 kilos of cherry so the average producer sells about 200-300 kilos of cherry annually.
Harvest & Post-harvest Before Bugestal erected the washing station, farmers and their families de-pulped cherries at home. The labour required was significant. Ngogomo CWS saves families valuable time while offering good prices for their cherry. The average cherry buying price for Bugestal in 2019 was significantly above average. CWSs make the first payment to farmers between 15-30 June. The second payment comes later in the summer. If the coffee wins a competition or sells for extremely high specialty prices, Bugestal gives another payment approximately a year after the harvest season.
During the harvest season, all coffee is selectively hand-picked. Most families only have 200 to 250 trees, and harvesting is done almost entirely by the family. Bugestal knows that even small distances can be time consuming and expensive to travel for smallholder farmers, and they know that receiving cherry immediately after harvest is crucial to quality. Therefore, smallholders can bring their cherries either directly to a central washing station (CWS) or to one of the 10-15 collection sites situated throughout growing areas. Farmers are paid the same for their quality cherry regardless of where they bring their cherries. In this way, farmers are not disadvantaged due to their location, and Bugestal bears the cost of transport to CWS’s.
Approximately 70% of the total coffee yield in Burundi is processed as fully washed, like this lot. Quality assurance begins as soon as farmers deliver their cherry. All cherry is floated in small buckets as a first step to check its quality. Bugestal still purchases floaters (damaged, underripe, etc) but immediately separates the two qualities and only markets floaters as B-quality cherry. After floating, the higher quality cherry is sorted again by hand to remove all damaged, underripe and overripe cherries.
After sorting, cherry is de-pulped within 6 hours of delivery. During pulping, cherry is separated into high- and low-grade by density on a Mackinon 3-disc pulper outfitted with an additional separation disk. The coffee is then fermented in water from a nearby stream for 10-12 hours, depending on ambient temperature. Trained agronomists check the beans by hand regularly to ensure fermentation is halted at the perfect time.
After fermentation is completed, coffee is run through washing and grading canals. As the beans flow through, wooden bars that are laid across the canal prevent beans of specific densities from passing through. These bars are spaced across the channel. While the first blockade stops the most-dense beans, the next is arranged to stop the second most-dense beans and so on. In total, the channel separates beans into seven grades according to density.
The beans are then transported to the drying tables where they will dry slowly for 2-3 weeks. Pickers go over the drying beans for damaged or defective beans that may have been missed in previous quality checks. The beans are covered with tarps during periods of rain, the hottest part of the day and at night. On the table, the beans are dried to 11.5%.
Coffee was introduced to Burundi by Catholic Monks from the small island of Reunion in the 1930’s. Most popular variety is Bourbon, however other varieties are grown including Blue Mountain. The crop is exclusively grown by smallholders, which are grouped into farmer associations called Sogestals.
Due to the age of the trees and the variance in rainfall, there is a huge amount of fluctuation in coffee production. On average the crop is around 20,000MT. All of the the trees are Arabica, with around 70% processed as fully washed. There was an attempt to introduce Robusta in Burundi by establishing a large plantation, however this was destroyed during the times of civil was and rebellion towards the end of the 20th century.