Tasting notes: Sweet, bright, and punchy with peach, nectarine, cherry preserves, and mandarin orange.

Price: 16 oz bag - $21.00


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    About This Coffee

    This fully washed lot is from smallholder producers on Shikankoni Hill in Kayanza. These farmers work with Cafex, a project launched by a Belgian-Burundian couple that wanted to combine the coffee production of their ancestral lands with sustainable development and a desire to improve the lives of the local population.

    This lot is milled and exported by Ikawa Nziza which began in 2013 as a partnership between the owners of Cafex mill and Schluter (now Covoya Europe), specifically aimed at building and promoting the specialty coffee production in Burundi. Ikawa Nziza’s mill is the first purpose-built specialty drymill in Burundi, situated at altitude and designed to cater to high-quality microlot coffees.


    Like many of its neighbors in Africa, Burundi produces microlots almost by default. Each farmer owns an average of less than even a single hectare and delivers cherries to centralized depulping and washing stations, SOGESTALs (Sociéte de Gestion des Stations de Dépulpage Lavage), and it may take more than one producer’s delivery in order to create a lot. There are 1640 smallholder farmers living around Tangara, Burundi who deliver their cherry to Gihere Central Washing Station.

    This purchasing style makes it nearly impossible, if not completely impossible, to arrive at single-producer, single-farm, or single-variety lots. Instead, coffees are typically sold under the appellation of the washing station. (In Kayanza, there are 21 washing stations, including the more familiar names, such as: Gackowe, Butezi, Gatare, and Kiryama.)

    Depending on the leadership and management at the stations, both private- and state-run, the attention to detail in the processing makes a big difference. Meticulous sorting, fermenting and washing are necessary to create quality and uniformity in the coffee. The typical processing method in Burundi is somewhat similar to Kenya, with a “dry fermentation” of roughly 12 hours after de-pulping, followed by a soak of 12–14 hours in mountain water. Coffees are floated to sort for density, then soaked again for 12–18 hours before being dried in parchment on raised beds.

    Burundi Sourcing

    Burundi is a relatively tiny country (barely the size of Maryland) with more than 50 different washing stations, and the coffee really is very special and different - even from nearby Rwanda, the country with which it’s most often paired and compared. Logistically, sourcing microlots here (and getting them out of the country) is difficult: It’s a landlocked country, one of the poorest in the world, and still burdened by a history of political unrest thanks to a brutal colonial history and the aftershocks that will, like any colonial history, be felt for generations to come.

    The coffee, though, is worth it.

    Every year, we await Burundi coffees with giddy anticipation: The best of them are often stunning, pushing into the highest reach of cupping scores. These are sugar-fruit coffee: fig jam, floral, sparkling with citrus. Before anyone thought to seek out (and pay for) specialty coffees from here, however, these lots were lost in bulk, commercial exports. Thankfully there have been many stalwarts of our industry out there championing Burundi as a specialty-coffee origin to watch, and that remain dedicated to discovering and bringing to market the microlots with the most character, structured acidity, and "sparkle".

    A Quick Note about 'Potato Defect', which can occur in coffees from Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, and Uganda

    Potato Defect, or 'Potato Taste Defect' (PTD) is caused by a chemical called 2-Isopropyl 3-methoxy pyrazine (IPMP). In its strongest instances, this potato smell can be apparent in the air at the farm, in the green coffee including the cherry and parchment, as well as the roasted and brewed product. While there are ongoing, intensive efforts at the farm level to reduce the number of PTD incidences, there is currently no way to sort out the defect in the green or roasted coffee in a scalable manner.

    For the specialty coffee industry in the regions affected by PTD, this defect has caused seemingly insurmountable issues at the farm level with direct consequences on the amount roasters purchase from affected regions as well as the selling power of area producers. Agronomists and biologists have proposed many theories and conducted numerous studies about the possible causes of Potato Taste Defect beginning as early as the 1950s, but currently there are no proven solutions to significantly eradicate the rate of defect.

    Identifying Potato Taste Defect

    There are very low, if any, visual identifiers that correlate to PTD defective seeds (or coffee beans). In fact, most defective seeds look perfectly normal to the human eye and show no visible insect damage or UV fluorescence. Therefore, unlike other defects, there is no “preventative maintenance” in processing or sorting methodologies that the producer can do to ensure a highly reduced rate of PTD.

    PTD seems to be a defect solely detectable via gustation and olfaction. We have done research to better understand the defect occurrence rate in the coffees we buy, and are sharing our recommended protocols to avoid tasting the defect when brewing.

    How Prevalent Is Potato Taste Defect?

    In our research tracking PTD, the average occurrence rate of this defect is 1 in approximately 1550 grams in the coffees we buy. This means in every 3.3 pounds or so, the likelihood of hitting one PTD coffee bean is fairly high. It also means that the chances of experiencing potato defect in a 12 oz bag are low. Of course, there is a large element of randomness involved in this—that is just the nature of the beast.

    In whole-bean coffee, there is no issue with transference. For example, if you open a bag and it smells of potato, the whole bag is not tainted. It is more than likely one defective coffee bean that simply smells very strong.

    There is no known toxicity in the defect itself, and it is safe to consume, should you encounter it once brewed. However, since one defective bean can affect the taste of the resulting brew, we are sharing our recommended steps to take to avoid tasting potato.

    Suggested Protocol To Avoid Tasting Potato

    • When preparing to brew coffees from these regions, be sure to diligently smell the ground coffee before brewing.
    • Grind your coffee in small amounts instead of grinding the whole bag at once. For home brewing, we recommend grinding <30 grams at a time. For batch brewing, we recommend grinding 100 grams at a time.
    • If you only smell delicious coffee, continue brewing and enjoying these incredible coffees!
    • If you are not sure, and you think you might be smelling potato, well, it is probably because you learned about PTD so your brain is telling you it is there. It might not be!

    What To Do If You Smell Potato

    If you smell raw potato (you’ll know!) in the grounds before brewing:

    • Compost the grounds
    • Purge the grinder of any remaining chaff/fines
    • If possible, grind through approximately 30g of coffee that is guaranteed to not have PTD (such as a coffee from Guatemala, Colombia, etc.) as to prevent transference to the next batch of coffee

    Country: Burundi

    Region: Kayanza

    Farm: Various Smallholders

    Elevation: 1650-2000 MASL

    Variety: Bourbon

    Processing: Washed

    Tasting notes: Sweet, bright, and punchy with peach, nectarine, cherry preserves, and mandarin orange.

    Website orders are roasted and packed every Monday and picked up Tuesday by USPS for delivery. As we only roast exactly as much of each coffee as we have known orders for, please be sure and place your order no later than 10 AM (PST) on Monday for fulfillment that week. Orders that come in later than that may not be fulfilled until the following week.

    Here is a quick guide to what our shipping rates are based on the quantity you order:

    Orders weighing 0 - 7.99 Pounds ship for $8.00.

    Orders weighing 8 Pounds or more ship for Free!

    (If you live in the Seattle area and would like to know where you can find Velton's Coffee locally, check out our handy guide!) 

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