- November 2016
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President / Green Coffee Buyer
We named this coffee Karyenda to honor one of Burundi’s most exciting cultural traditions—its mesmerizing, intoxicating drumming. This music is incredibly powerful—relentless, polyrhythmic, and profoundly energetic. We feel the same way about the coffees produced here; they have a complexity and dynamism that calls our attention and holds us transfixed. Karyenda is highest in the order of ceremonial sacred drums, and its use was reserved for major events or special circumstances that called for its exceptional power. The maturation of the first fruits that signal the beginning of the agricultural season was among the occasions that brought the drums out, to announce and celebrate the coming of the harvest. For us, the arrival of coffees from Burundi to our menu has another kind of seasonal relevance: they mark the transition from Northern to Southern Hemisphere coffees, and provide a vibrant energy to ring in the start of winter.
This edition of Karyenda comes from Yandaro, a mid-sized washing station in the Kayanza region that has recently undergone a major renovation and aims to become one of the best quality producers in the region. From late March until mid June, Yandaro is a bustling center of activity. Hundreds of people come and go from the station each day. Coffee cherries flow in on a daily basis and undergo rigorous sorting before they are de-pulped and fermented. Most of this work is done by hand, and during the day there is constant motion as coffees move through each stage of processing. After fermentation, beans are soaked in a water bath and then separated by density in washing channels to generate five different quality grades and isolate the best caliber coffees. The sorting continues throughout the drying process; the coffee is slowly dried on elevated beds over a period of up to two weeks, and during this time workers at Yandaro carefully sift through the coffees in its parchment shell to remove any discolored or misshapen beans.
Once the harvest season is finished the focus of the management team shifts towards agronomy support. The Yandaro washing station has a newly developed system for delivering technical assistance to the nearly 3500 farmers in the surrounding communities who rely on the station to bring their coffees to market.Over 100 farmers have been trained by the staff of agronomy engineers to serve as leaders and spread best practices knowledge within their village. Each of them is responsible for working with sub-groups of 30 growers and serving as the communication link to the washing station. These lead farmers utilize their own farms as demonstration plots.
All of the coffee from Yandaro is hulled, screened and prepared for export at the Budeca mill in nearby Gitega. There it undergoes another intensive sorting process, to further isolate the top qualities. After the usual density, size and color sorting the coffee is inspected under black lights and hand-sorted a final time before bagging. The result of all of this effort is coffee of exceptional vibrancy and clarity that makes good on all of the latent potential in Burundi, one of the most underrated coffee origins in the world and a rising star on the African continent.