Karyenda Burundi Limited Release
- December 2016
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President / Green Coffee Buyer
“ Burundi is a country that is relatively unknown to most specialty coffee drinkers in the United States, but we suspect that will change soon. ”
During the 1970s, Burundi was growing some of the most carefully produced coffees in all of Central Africa—and some of the most exciting. Since then, decades of civil conflict, recurring political upheaval and a stifling bureaucracy set the country’s coffee sector back. But today Burundi is surging again, seeking to reclaim its rightful place among the top sources of quality coffee on the continent. How? Vigorous investment, gritty determination and the leadership of a small number of remarkable young entrepreneurs focused relentlessly on quality.
Ramadhan Salum is one of those entrepreneurs. In 2009, he founded his company Kayanza Premium Coffee (KPC) with a single washing station called Buziraguhindwa. Ramadhan immediately began attracting the attention of specialty buyers who recognized his obvious passion and could see clear evidence of his readiness to manage all the details of quality control in the way he operated his “Buzi” mill.
In 2014, Ramadhan launched his second station, named after the Mibirizi cultivar that has been widely distributed throughout the region. Today, he has three washing stations, serving over 7000 individual farmers grouped into 63 small associations. At all three of those stations, KPC uses four steps to optimize quality as it turns fresh coffee cherry to washed seed: flotation to sort cherry by density, hand sorting coffee cherry by color prior to de-pulping, careful de-pulping and a double fermentation and soaking protocol that lasts nearly 40 hours.
Every day, cherries are harvested in the morning and transported by foot or bicycle to one of these stations for sorting and processing. Each of the “day lots” at Mibirizi combines coffee from an average of 200 individual farmers who live in the surrounding communities of Nyabihanga, Mibirizi, Mudusi, and Gatara. Every lot is moved separately through fermentation, drying, and storage so that it can be evaluated for quality. Much like winemakers who utilize bin numbers to identify singular lots, Ramadhan codes his individual day lots with a number. This particular lot is number 22, which indicates that it was created on the 22nd day from the beginning of the season.
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 our Burundi coffees. They have a complexity and dynamism that gets 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. Appropriately, one of its most important functions was to signal the celebration of first fruits and ring in the beginning of the harvest season.