Watching the work of the Long Miles Project for a few years now, we are extremely happy to launch our first coffee from 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.
Ninga Hill is an outstanding washed coffee. Notes of dried apricot and tangerine are supported by brown sugar and oolong. What we always like about coffees from Burundi is the silkiness and elegance of their washed coffees.
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 Washing Station
Nestled deep within the heart of the small coffee producing country of Burundi, on the border of the northern Kayanza Province, is the village of Bukeye. Two rivers and a province border lie between Bukeye Washing Station and the hills of Ninga. The community is far beyond the reach of electricity. Coffee trees occupy any space they can on this hill from the edge of the single track dirt paths that weave through the hills to the doorsteps of farmers selfmade mud brick houses. With every violent conflict that has broken out in Burundi, Ninga farmers have scattered into the surrounding hills and forest areas with no established place of refuge to run to.
During these times the coffee trees have gone into hibernation mode, waiting for their owners to return. Many decades later, farmers return home and try to combat the effects that years of neglect have had on their land. Yet, Ninga hill produces elegant and complex coffees, with flavors that are layered and not at all muddled.
Long Miles commitment to working more closely with this hill has never been stronger.
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.
Bukeye Washing Station has three double pre-drying tables and fifty-seven drying tables ranging in length and level designed to regulate drying times. The parchment is carried to covered drying tables where it spends between six to forty-eight hours pre-drying. During this time, it is hand-picked for under-ripeness, over-ripeness, insect damage and visual defects. It is then moved to traditional African raised tables where it spends between sixteen to twenty days slow drying (depending on the weather) reaching the desired 10.5% moisture level.
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.