Burundi and Rwanda Coffee

Two of the smallest countries in the heart of East Africa’s coffee growing highlands produce some of our favorite fall and winter arrivals each year, unique in flavor and in provenance. Rolling mountain ranges, cool nights, an abundance of fresh water, and access to legacy Bourbon type cultivars set the stage for excellent flavor profiles. Meanwhile, the investment of resources, including farmer access to education and fertilizer, hints at the resilience and dedication of the people who – even at the smallest of imaginable production scales – are producing unmatched coffees. Rwandan coffees range from tea-like to tart, showcasing a range of orange and lemony citrus flavors and are nearly always accompanied by a hint of spice and glossy texture. Burundi coffees grown just to the south provide more intense dark fruit notes accompanied by zesty grapefruit and blackberry flavors, and recently honey and natural coffees are showing a whole new side to the lush, ripe berry and cherry sweetness these processes can impart.

Burundi and Rwanda Suppliers

Burundi Supplier: JNP

Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian, the founder of JNP Coffees, is without a doubt one of the most influential individuals in Burundi coffee today. Raised in Bujumbura, Jeanine would go on to earn an MBA from Northwestern University’s prestigious Kellogg School, cycle through corporate America, and eventually reconnect with her birth country by founding Burundi Friends International, a not-for-profit that funds educational and economic empowerment programs for rural Burundians, which is now in its 13th year. After a few years marketing Burundi coffees stateside for friends and family, Jeanine realized she had every reason to lead the business, and JNP Coffees was born. JNP Coffee is highly focused on women’s empowerment, and along with a few local women’s rights advocates, formulated the Burundi chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.

Rwanda Supplier: Dukunde Kawa

Located in Rwanda’s Northern Province, Dukunde Kawa Cooperative started in 2000 with enough funds to build one wet mill. In the following years, the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative has built three more and completed construction of their own dry mill. More than 80 percent of the cooperative workforce is women, and producer-members have used earnings to improve their standards of living with investments in livestock, access to healthcare, and programs to protect the environment, which won the SCAA 2012 Sustainability Award. The quality of the coffee is also internationally recognized, consistently placing as one of the best in the Cup of the Excellence auction each year. A longstanding Royal Supply partner, Dukunde Kawa coffees maintain Fair Trade certification.

Rwanda Supplier: Kivu Belt

Kivubelt was established in 2011 by Furaha Umwizeye, after returning to Rwanda with a master’s degree in economics from Switzerland. Born and raised in Rwanda, Umwizey’s goal with Kivubelt is to create a model coffee plantation, as sustainable in agriculture as it is impactful in local employment and empowerment. The company began with 200 scattered acres of farmland in Gihombo, a community in Rwanda’s coffee-famous Nyamasheke district that runs along the breathtaking central shoreline of Lake Kivu. Under Umwizeye’s leadership, and the guidance of her farm manager Gaspard Nsengimana, Kivu Belt has planted 90,000 coffee trees on their estate, which now employ more than 400 people during harvest months and is a kind of coffee vocational school for local smallholders interested in improving their farming. Kivu Belt has also acquired two washing stations, Murundo and Jarama, which process coffee from the company’s estates as well as that of more than 500 smallholders in the region, offering quality premiums and training programs for participating farming families.