Watching the work of the Long Miles Project for a few years now, we are extremely happy to now run our second season with them. Burundi is very fertile despite ongoing deforestation in many areas. With altitudes up to 2000 meters, volcanic soils, and rainfall of 1300 mm per year, the growing conditions for coffee are very good.
This is the first year that Long Miles have ever processed washed coffee from Bumba Hill. It was processed on the brand-new Ninga Hill Washing Station. The processing and sorting was extremely accurate and done with the highest level of attention to quality.
Notes of tangerine and rose are predominant in this cup. Supported by aromas of grapefruit and violet. Sweet sugarcane rounds off the balance in this extremely clean cup profile. The body is elegant. Bravo!
You have to cross over three rivers and pass by two province borders to reach Bumba Hill. The farming communities that call Bumba home are far beyond the reach of clean drinking water and electricity. Coffee is the most important crop grown on the hill, closely competing with corn and beans. Step closer to the center of the hill and you’ll find a local market where people sell baskets full of freshly harvested crops and trade other household essentials. Only one primary school stands tall on Bumba hill.
Year after year, Long Miles have met challenge after challenge trying to bring a washing station closer to Bumba hill. Coffee farmers from Bumba had been delivering their cherries to Bukeye Washing Station or the nearest Long Miles collection point, traveling more than three hours by foot. This year, a major step-change has happened: Long Miles have finished their brand-new washing station, Ninga Hill, only a stone’s throw away from Bumba. Constructed with traditional African raised drying tables, coffee farmers now walk or bicycle the day’s harvest of cherry to the new delivery site.
About Long Miles Project
Ben and Kristy Carlson moved to Burundi in 2011 and saw that both injustice and poor farming practices permeated the countrys newly privatized coffee industry. They also saw that roasters around the world had a difficult time getting consistently great coffees from Burundi. In an effort to see positive change in both farmers and roasters lives, Long Miles Coffee was born.
Long Miles Project is a farmer-driven coffee production model. They work with coffee farming families on eleven unique hills within Burundi. Long Miles create traceable micro-lots that yield consistently great coffees while improving the livelihoods of the small holding farmers who grow them. Here are three of the most important ways to do this:
- The farmers who grow coffee on the eleven hills receive year-round agricultural assistance through one of the twenty-six Long Miles Coffee Scouts who are trained agronomists.
- Long Miles pay higher prices for coffee cherries as well as annual premiums.
- They strengthen relationships between roaster and farmer so they can serve coffee from a specific hill year after year.
The traditional Burundian process is fully washed: freshly harvested cherries are delivered by coffee farmers to the washing station, then floated and hand-sorted for ripeness upon arrival. The cherries are pulped and undergo a single fermentation process. Parchment spends around twelve hours dry fermenting. The parchment is sometimes ‘footed’ after fermentation. A team of twenty-five people will agitate and dance on the slippery coffee parchment by foot, helping to loosen any remaining mucilage clinging to it. It is then rinsed in fresh water, graded by density and left to soak for another four to six hours in the final rinse tank.
Coffee collection usually begins in April and by the end of July the last of Burundi’s best cherries arrive at the station.
Sakubu is one of the Coffee Scouts working alongside the coffee farming families on Ninga hill. He has been empowering farmers with sustainable farming practices, helping them to understand the importance of planting shade trees, green manures, to mulch their land and seasonally prune the coffee trees. During coffee harvest, he stands side by side with farmers, guiding them through the cherry picking process.