This coffee comes to us by way of our friend Jake at Homage Coffee Source. Each season we taste through sample sets from the Homage network across Burundi. Jake has a unique network of partners, which have routinely produced naturals and stellar washed microlots. This coffee from BSS is a natural that stood out to us immediately, and we contracted it based on the pre-shipment material, while eagerly waiting for it’s arrival to our roastery.
BURUNDI SPECIALTY SEEDS
In 2021, BSS joined as a producer partner for Homage, but their relationship traces back to 2013 when they first started working together in Burundi. BSS is led by a dedicated and ambitious trio of close friends named Picasso, Zephyrin, and Jeremiah. These individuals are deeply committed to their community and the people they collaborate with. The exceptional quality of their leadership and craftsmanship is truly remarkable, and we are thrilled to continue our friendship and partnership with this crew.
Over the past 2-3 years, these three individuals have been building a unique coffee production and exporting business model in Burundi. They have developed an innovative supply chain for coffee, which distinguishes them from the traditional routes taken in Burundi. While some coffee washing station owners in Burundi also engage in coffee farming on a larger scale, BSS has implemented a distinctive land lease model, allowing them to plant over 38,000 coffee trees and establish an outstanding specialty coffee production model. In addition to their own coffee production, which will mature over the next few years, they have also begun purchasing coffee cherries from smallholder farmers in the surrounding areas who no longer have access to a local station due to recent closures.
All of their coffee production follows a sun-dried natural process, with a unique 3-5 day "yeast development" period. They meticulously separate the coffee by hill/community and day lots for pre-milling quality control. This process enhances sweetness and clarity in acidity, resulting in a truly exceptional cup of coffee. All of their coffee is processed at their production site called UMOCO, which means "Light" in Burundi's native language, Kirundi. To them, "light" signifies transparency in their relationships with farmers and partners, aiming to foster genuine connections.
In the coming years, they have plans to build a washing station to produce fully washed coffees, as well as explore other processing methods that they are already developing. Furthermore, BSS and Homage are collaborating to identify and fund bonus projects that roaster partners can invest in and contribute to. These projects encompass a wide range of initiatives, including long-term efforts to support farmers with manure production, provide washing station tools, establish a cupping lab, distribute seedlings to farmers, and more, all of which aim to uplift the community.
NATURALLY PROCESSED COFFEE
Natural coffees are beautiful… Okay, natural coffees are beautiful when done properly, but can be equally terrible when things go wrong. Natural processing, or dry processing, refers to the act of drying and fermenting coffee inside the cherry. Long before the age of portafilter tattoos and dual-boiler home espresso machines, coffee was picked and dried this way out of convenience. It is, to this day, still the most convenient and economically friendly way to process coffee cherries. (It’s estimated that dry-processing can use up to 90% less water than the washing process.) So why isn’t all coffee processed this way? Well, as coffee made its way across the world, it was commoditized and standardized, just like all other products spread by colonialism, but that’s a whole other story... Adding to the boom of washed processing, the natural process method can be tricky to get right, due to the delicate nature of fermentation and drying. What does all this have to do with the final cup? Well, when you leave the skin and fruit of the coffee cherry on the seed throughout fermentation and drying, that fruit begins to break down, imparting esters that influence delicate florals and big fruit notes into the seed that survive the roasting process. If it’s rushed or handled incorrectly, this fruit rot can lend off-flavors to the coffee, making the final cup dirty or ‘fermenty.’ Basically that single cherry begins to slowly decay, and controlling that delicate action through advanced technique and metrics allow us, lucky folks, to drink wonderfully floral and fruity coffees.