The Republic of Burundi is a tiny landlocked East African country, nestled between Tanzania to the East, Democratic Republic of Congo to the West and Rwanda to the north. It has been inhabited for over 500 years by two main tribal groups, and ruled as a kingdom before being colonised by Germany. Post World War I Belgium took control of the small nation before handing it independence in 1952 – various bouts of political unrest plagued Burundi for much of the 20th century. Coffee and Tea represent 90% of foreign exchange earnings.
The coffee industry, like the political and economic situation in Burundi has gone through many changes since independence. Introduced by the Belgians, Burundi coffee has enjoyed periods of privatisation (free market) and government controlled. In the late 1970’s, the entire sector from production to export became state controlled. Today, much of the coffee is back in the hands of private individuals and “Sogestals” (Co Operatives). Most coffee is fully washed in its processing method, and thanks to substantial investment in research, the blight of ‘Potato’ cups is considerably less prevalent today, than it was 5 to 10 years ago. This consistency in quality is starting to put Burundi on the map of specialty coffee hunters looking for an alternative East African offering. Its high altitudes and good volcanic soils produce a sweet acidic and fruity cup, known throughout the east African region. Burundi’s next challenge is to smooth out the peaks and troughs of its bi-annual production cycle – further increasing consistency.