We are particularly excited about this coffee because Gaharo Hill marks the first coffee we’ve offered from Burundi! We’ve been looking for coffees from further south in East Africa for some time, and we dabbled in Rwanda (Phil took one trip there a few years ago). Part of our motivation for pursuing Rwanda or Burundi is that they harvest in our summer, so they’ll be fresher this time of year compared to Ethiopia/Kenya (although our green freezing has changed this a lot). However, to be honest, Phil is morbidly afraid of the potato defect. Phil’s experience in Rwanda revealed a big disconnect between the washing stations who are often over-conflident that they have the potato defect addressed, and the reality is we still see the defect all the time when tasting coffee from these two countries. All this said, we truly believe that Long Miles is different. Their diligence is not one but many cuts above every other washing station operators Phil has met. We still expect to hit a few defects as we move through this lot, but we believe they will be very minor (a slight earthiness).
Despite the civil unrest present there, Burundi’s specialty coffee sector is developing and the quality of coffees produced there are truly world class. This quality potential, coupled with an opportunity to affect change in one of the world’s poorest countries is what attracted Ben and Kristy Carlson, the founders of Long Miles Coffee Project. Ben reports that he spent two years tasting coffee from 187 washing stations in Burundi before honing in on the Gaharo Hill area to begin their Coffee Project.
Back in Burundi, in 2013, Ben and Kristy built their first washing station called Bukeye, at the base of Gaharo hill. In Ben’s own poetic words, he talks about the Gaharo area:
“For Long Miles, Gaharo farmers are neighbors and co-workers—many of the dedicated washing station employees and their families call Gaharo home. Farmers share memories of growing up on this hill, attending school here and playing a ballgame called ‘Horo’ (similar to Piggy in the Middle). These memories are often punctured by war, the loss of parents, and the halt to development that conflict brings. Gaharo farmers continue to hope for better education for their children and greater stability so that they may build a life, secure in the knowledge that it will not be destroyed by war and conflict.
The sprawling Gaharo region was cultivated slightly later than other regions in the area. When farmers first arrived, there was no one to welcome them; only empty land waiting to be farmed. As farmers began to work the land and plant crops, the hill was named to mean ‘We are full’ in Kirundi (the local language of Burundi). Today, over 600 farming families live in Gaharo.”
The Gaharo Hill area is home to 921 plantations with a total of 104,747 trees (someone had a lot of patience to count them!). The farming families grow tea, beans, sweet potato, cassava, bananas and taro in addition to coffee to sustain themselves year-round.
Gaharo has struggled with low soil fertility and, to combat this, Long Miles has begun distributing fertilizer and educating farmers on soil maintenance practices.
The Bukeye washing station processes coffee from four ‘hills’: Gaharo, Ninga, Munuinya and Rugoma. This level of coffee lot separation is very rare for East Africa, and is just one of many unique Long Miles initiatives. The list of impressive initiatives seems nearly endless, but some other highlights are: a six hour pick-to-process quality timing mark, as well as a full-time agronomist and team of “coffee scouts” to implement an extensive organic pesticide program which targets Antestia: the insect thought to be responsible for the potato defect.
This coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.
OWNERS: Ben and Kristy Carlson of Long Miles Coffee Project
LOCATION: Bukeye Commune, Muramvya Province
REGION: Gaharo Hill
VARIETY: Peaberry of Jackson Bourbon
HARVEST: 25 May-8 June, 2016
WASHING STATION: Bukeye
PROCESSING: 12-hour fermentation with a 6-hour rinse
DRYING: Slow-dried 20-30 days on raised, African beds
STORAGE: Green coffee frozen to preserve freshness