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Situated in Southeast Africa, Burundi is a landlocked country bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the south and east and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Traditionally, Burundi was a kingdom ruled by the Twa, Tutsi and Hutu people until it was colonised towards the end of the 19th Century by Germany. Following the First World War, the League of Nations gave the region known as ‘Ruanda-Urundi’ (now Rwanda and Burundi) to Belgium who began to rule through the dominant Tutsi chiefs and princes. This led to a concentration of wealth amongst this group and contributed towards decades of civil unrest between the Hutu and Tutsi people. Following independence in 1962, the United Nations Security Council has recognised two separate incidences of genocide in the country with around 250,000 people killed between 1962 and 1993. There is no doubting the horrors committed during this period, but to consider Burundi only in terms of its tragedies would be wrong. It is an incredibly beautiful and culturally rich nation which also produces coffees of outstanding quality.
It is thought coffee was first introduced to Burundi by the Belgians during their rule. Plantations were established and production and sales increased, cementing coffee as an important cash crop to the country. Following independence in 1962, the coffee industry was privatised with the State only contributing to research, quality improvement and price stability – though quality and quantity gradually decreased due to political instability and the negative colonial image coffee production held. In 1976, the coffee industry retreated back into State control in an effort to improve the quality and quantity of coffee produced, this however failed and the Burundi industry has been run privately since 2009. Coffee is now Burundi’s main export and has played a large part in rebuilding the country following years of political unrest. Burundi is quickly gaining a reputation for the production of outstanding coffee, though it has faced many challenges to achieve this. The country is very densely populated with agricultural communities and as a result, the soil is intensely used. This, along with the steep lie of the land has meant the effects of erosion are keenly felt in some areas. The capital investment required to produce coffees of specialty grade is also huge and due to issues around land ownership it is nearly impossible for smallholder farmers to access credit. Luckily, the number of privately owned mills has increased and more smallholders are able to access specialty prices.
It is usually fully washed coffees from Burundi which are the best in cup profile and Bourbon is prevalent in the country though it is common to come across Typica and some SL varieties too. Coffee grows across the country, though we tend to favour those from Kayanza which borders Rwanda in the North.