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- Process: Honey
- Kayanza Province
2017 marks the start of a fun new selection in Burundi: the washing station series! We selected two of our favorite washing stations in Burundi which we believe to produce the best cup profiles for making high quality natural and honey processed coffees. Last year, a honey processed coffee from Gahahe debuted as our first out of the ordinary, not really washed coffee from Burundi. The quality over time after arrival remained impressive, so this year we decided to expand the exotics a bit further.
In the washing station series of Gahahe, we present you:
- 1 fully washed coffee
- 1 honey processed coffee
- 1 natural processed coffee
These coffees are only available in small volumes. We recommend to try out one bag each to experience the full impact of the processing!
Gahahe central washing station
Gahahe washing station is located in Gahahe, Kayanza Commune in Kayanza province. The washing station lies at 1800 meters above sea level. Gahahe has 1771 registered coffee producer; each has 240 trees on average. The washing station is equipped with 10 fermentation tanks, 4 cherry selection tables, 2 soaking tanks and a drying field with 180 drying tables, and 18 pre-drying tables. At cherry intake, a picking team sorts the cherries on maturity. Floaters are taken out first by dumping the cherries in large buckets. In natural processing, this is essential to have a uniform drying rate and coffee quality. From intake and cherry selection, the coffee goes straight to the drying field. The quality team closely checks the volume per table. Cherries are spread out in a thin layer so they can dry evenly. On the raised beds, air can circulate freely around the cherries so that all cherries dry at the same rate. Depending on the weather conditions, it will reach 12% moisture content in three to four weeks.
Recently, a lot more focus is being put on how to limit potato taste defect in the cup. Since it is generally accepted that a strong selection drastically reduces the number of affected beans, washing stations all across the country focus on better selection methods. A campaign was launched from the national coffee institute as well to encourage producers to float their cherries in the river before they bring it to the washing station. Greenco already put their quality standard high right from when they became operational in 2015. This has motivated producers to select their cherries on maturity and through flotation before they make the journey to the closest washing station. This way, they meet Greenco’s quality standard and they can benefit from their good cherry price which sits above the national minimum.
At cherry intake, a picking team sorts the cherries again. Any remaining floaters are taken out first by dumping the cherries in large buckets. When we visited Gahahe in early July, we could see with our own eyes that the number of floaters in the coffee that producers brought to the station, was actually impressively low! In natural processing, this uniform cherry quality is essential to have a uniform drying rate, sugar content and coffee quality. From the intake point and cherry selection, the coffee goes straight to the drying field. The quality team closely checks the volume per table. Cherries are spread out in a thin layer so they can dry evenly. On the raised beds, air can circulate freely around the cherries so that all cherries dry at the same rate. Depending on the weather conditions, it will reach 12% moisture content in three to four weeks.
The coffee is handpicked once more at the dry mill, after it has been milled. Greenco has a special room at the dry mill for sorting under UV light. This final sorting takes out anything that may have skipped all previous selections, and that the bare eye might have missed. This strong focus on selection and consistency on all steps during post-harvest is one of the reasons why we believe that the washing stations grouped under Greenco produce the best coffees in Burundi. And this year’s Cup of Excellence winners are proof of that belief!
All producers registered at a Greenco washing station are organized in groups of 30 people, headed by a farm leader. This leader acts as a spokesman to facilitate communication and organization with the washing station.
At the washing station, farmers can obtain organic fertilizer from reconverted coffee pulp. To promote farm renovation, producers can buy low-cost, subsidized coffee seedlings at the washing station. Each station has its own nursery for this purpose.
Kayanza is one of Burundi’s regions with the best coffee growing reputation. Coffee farms lie in the highlands, where soils are rich and volcanic. But optimal growing conditions alone aren’t enough to produce a high-quality coffee. To achieve a top coffee, a skilled and dedicated washing station manager is essential. They oversee the implementation of good economic practice and farmer education and collaborate with the producers to ensure they have access to the necessary tools. They also help farmers determine and implement the practices best suited to the specific growing conditions of their plantations.
Greenco is a company that oversees and structures washing stations in Kayanza province of Burundi. It gives the washing stations and producers technical and financial support all along the production chain. They started their work in 2015, and right from their first season, coffees from Greenco washing stations dominated the top ranks in Cup of Excellence. Currently, Greenco has 13 washing stations all located in Kayanza in the north of Burundi. Greenco’s overall impact through these 13 CWS extends to over 40’000 coffee producing households. The producers receive support from the Greenco CWS managers, who are all young engineers in agronomy.
Supporting the producing communities
Working with young graduates has proved to have various advantages. They can all work with computer systems. It seems like a detail for us, but this greatly simplifies the flow of information between the washing stations and Greenco. Also, they have a fresh and systematic approach to coffee production and processing, with up-to-date knowledge about farming practices. The agronomists received additional training from the ONG Kahawatu on best agricultural practices (BAP). Off season, they provide agronomist assistance to the roughly 4000 farmers who deliver cherries to Greenco CWS to prepare for the next harvest.
Next to improving quality and productivity, Greenco strives to improve socioeconomic and environmental conditions around the washing stations. All of their washing stations have UTZ and 4C certification. One of their focus points is building an efficient supply chain around the CWS. Greenco is buying 93% of its cherries directly from farmers via collection centers. This way, they improve farm-gate price to the producers.
Another socio-economic challenge that Greenco addresses is youth unemployment. The national youth unemployment rate is almost 50%. At Greenco, young graduates receive a decent salary and benefits (house, motorbike, healthcare) as well as real career prospects.
Next to the training on farming practices, Greenco organizes training for farmer groups on various social aspects. Coffee families learn about gender equality, financial planning, family planning, breastfeeding, etc.
On an environmental side, Greenco has equipped all washing stations with water treatment facilities and solar panels and batteries. The solar panels provide energy for computers, lighting, and smartphones.