Coffees from Mbirizi have always been strong staff favourites when they make their way into our range, which they have for the last three years running. We’ve been buying coffees from Salum in Burundi for the last six years, and as well as Buziraguhindrwa, Mbirizi is fast becoming a fixture at Workshop Coffee. This particular lot processed at the Mbirizi coffee washing station is entirely made up of coffee cherries from smallholders in the Nyabihanga commune of Burundi. Parcels of fruit coming in from distinct locales are kept separate all through the sorting, processing and drying stages, which allows for more involved sampling, cupping and ultimately selections, enabling us to find those real standout gems amongst a lot of really great coffees.
Salum is a beacon for quality driven coffee producers, overseeing not just Mbirizi and Buzraguhindwa, but also Sehe, Cukiro and Shembati, upholding the highest standards of cherry reception, processing and drying at each one. He has, in recent years, branched out into other experimental processing and drying methods, for example processing both naturals and honeys as well as the more traditional washed style coffees that Kayanza is known for. He has also begun to dry a certain portion of the highest grades under shaded structures, slowing down the process to gain more control and better preserve the crop for a longer period. As well as great coffee production protocols, as Mbirizi there is a small farm, bee hives and several cows, providing milk for the workers and organic compost for the farmers delivering their cherry to the station. There is also a nursery, which the farmers can take coffee seedlings from for free. Salum pays a high premium over the going rate for coffee cherries, asking in return for ripe cherry selection, and once the coffee is sold he pays a secondary sum to the farmers.
When we last visited Ngozi where Salum’s coffees are typically dry milled, it was eye-opening to meet the enormous team of close to 1,000, around 80% of whom are women, employed to hand sort the green coffee once it is milled, removing by hand any visible defects before the separate lots of coffee are bagged up ready for export. In some countries this kind of sorting is done via mechanical optical-sorters, but at SIVCA in Burundi it is all done by hand. Power shortages are a frequent, disruptive occurrence in Burundi, and this year Salum finished building his own dry mill and cupping lab complete with a generator, so as to have a more reliable infrastructure for separating and grading distinct lots of coffees.
From this year’s Burundi samples, on top of this Mbirizi lot we’ve secured a small amount of coffee from Buziraguhindwa, also to be roasted for filter release. We often look for coffees that at the very early stage of sampling present a closed, covered character, with potential to open up slowly over time. Sometimes fresh coffees can taste amazing, but this can suggest that they will lose intensity and structure over time, which unfortunately can be accelerated in less than ideal shipping conditions. On our first encounter with this shade dried lot we found it to taste quite papery/hay like, with covered citrus fruits and only a hint of the deep, brown sugar sweetness that it has now fully developed. The fruit notes in the coffee are more prominent and the acidity and sweetness have become harmonious. We’re really glad to have Mbirizi back in our range, and hope you enjoy it too!
Kayanza-Ngozi Border, Burundi
Warming notes of ginger cake and brown sugar underpin flavours of apricot and ripe berries. A perfumed, musky vanilla aroma lingers in the aftertaste.