Bursting with cranberry, citrus, and brown sugar, this zesty fully washed coffee from Salum Ramadhan’s Buzira washing station in Kayanza just landed and we can’t stop gushing over this coffee and its companion lots.
This is our second year working with Salum, who now is responsible for coffees from four washing stations in northern Burundi. His attention to quality and detail are second-to-none. The fermentation tanks and washing channels are immaculate, parchment dries in thin layers on well-organized beds, and Salum pays well above average for both daily labor and cherry deliveries from local farmers, in this instance separating the lot from a single community called Muruta. Each station is also surrounded by a multi-purpose farm, serving as test plots for new varieties and as examples of a well-run garden for local smallholders. He also recently completed his own mill, which he calls Trust Dry Mill, located nearby which helps ensure better efficiency in processing, storage, and exporting. Buzira (full name: Buziraguhindwa) was his first washing station, established in 2009, and now has around 3000 contributing farmers.
Salum Ramadhan is a self-made man, and a native of Kayanza, where he seems to know everyone. Kayanza is in the heart of Burundi’s coffee production area, second only to neighboring province Ngozi in total production volume. Coffee is the country’s leading export product, both by value (65%) and volume (90%), followed by tea, cotton, and sugar. The potential for quality arabica is incredibly high: ideal climate and growing conditions combined with old-growth heirloom varieties yield exceptional flavors. Political instability and logistics challenges continue to be the greatest stumbling blocks for access to the specialty coffee in the country. But with people like Salum leading the charge, we can see the pendulum swinging towards positive change.
Incoming coffees, mostly grown by local smallholders who are paid for cherry delivery at the washing station, are washed and floated for density before processing, even for natural process coffees. The second wash this coffee undergoes is the traditional one, after fermentation, where it again is sorted for density. Finally, the third wash includes an overnight soak that helps to stabilize the fermented coffee and lower the microbe load before drying. The result is an exceptionally consistent and high quality coffee we’re proud to offer, both as a Crown Jewel and standard 60kg bags.
The regional risk of rain during the harvest season can make coffees like this one difficult to dry. Long times on drying beds, sometimes covered in yellow plastic tarp to protect from sudden thunderstorms, can bottleneck washing stations, and the temptation to rush parchment through the process can sacrifice quality. Luckily for us, Salum has invested in copious space for tables and employed well-trained workers for the task. As a result, we have here a moderately dense coffee with good moisture figures and a slightly elevated water activity, so look for quick color changes and a possible high first crack temperature.
Local varieties are usually part of the Bourbon group, and include regionally popular Jackson and Mbirizi, which were among the older trees distributed in the 1950s. Newer cultivars exist, and Salum keeps a variety garden on site at his washing stations as an example of the kinds of trees that perform well in the microregion. Farmers in the region are also growing classic Kenyan SL-28 and the newer Batian variety, as well as K7, another Scott Lab selection.
The threat of potato still scares roasters, but Salum’s washing stations are rigorous in cherry selection, flotation, and parchment sorting, and we’re fortunate to have secured especially clean coffees as a result. If you’d like to read a little more about the defect, including suggestions for talking points and service, take a peek at this article we ran last year.
This week I roasted on the Quest with a profile from one of my favorite coffee roasters, Gabe Boscana of Maquina Coffee. What feels like millions of years ago, Gabe hired me to roast at Ecco Caffe in Santa Rosa, CA and it was there that I really learned how to cup for roast profile and how to communicate with other roasters. For the last two years Gabe has been using a Quest as a sample roaster and I was keen to learn his approach.
With a small batch size of 100 grams the charge temperature is lower than you might think at 350F. Using a low charge temperature allows me to use the highest amperage and fan speed settings at the beginning of the roast. At this pace the coffee begins to yellow just before the 3 minute mark. For a sample roast, Gabe suggests cutting the amperage (heat) by 50% at first crack and then allow the coffee to continue roasting until you reach the desired degree of roast.
I really enjoy roast profiles that are more simple in their approach, especially on such a small roaster where I may need to produce multiple roasts. This coffee in particular cracked quite late at 393F which is common amongst coffees with higher water activity readings. With all of the built up momentum from the high heat roast I quickly sailed to a high end temperature in just under a minute before the coffee looked ready to be discharged. Although this roast is nearly identical to my roast of CJ1258 Timor-Leste this week, this washed Burundi turned out to be quite balanced and sweet with delicate florals. Coffees with higher water activities can also accelerate non enzymatic reactions making them taste sweeter and more developed. Blackberry, chrysanthemum, and nectarine: this coffee was so sparkling, clean, and sweet
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.
The Burundi Buzira Muruta Triple Washed was great last year, but this year is even better. This coffee is slightly less dense and has slightly higher water activity than its counterparts from the same container (CJ1260 and CJ1261). The beans are also slightly larger.
I followed my standard profile of 100% heat from the outset, with high drum speed. Just a bit after first crack (20 seconds) I engaged 75% power (the P4 button in manual mode) to ramp down the heat a bit during development. Thinking that I’d like to develop the jammy aspects of this coffee, I allowed development continue until 12:30 before cooling using the COOL program on the Behmor, with the door open. The result was about 14.3% roast loss percentage, a bit higher than I would have expected.
On the cupping table, the roastiness was confirmed – but not without quite a few positive notes. We found molasses, plum, strawberry, dark chocolate, and red apple in this roast. The bright nectarine flavors in this coffee were eschewed in favor of jammy notes, not a completely awful situation by any means.
Take a look at Jen’s Quest M3s notes above for a completely different profile. This coffee is truly what you make of it, and it’s full of potential. Whether you’re into acidity or depth and sweetness, this coffee is a solid choice.
This coffee is delicious. On the cupping table or brewed, across multiple roasts, it’s just stellar. I first brewed it on the Ceramic Phoenix 70 from Saint Anthony industries; the thick, even filter and narrow brew bed can lead to an extended but exceptionally clean extraction. Given all the careful processing that Salum and his colleagues do at the Buzira washing station, and aggressive extraction that squeezed out every last bit of deliciousness seemed like the way to go.
At a 1:16 ratio, I used setting 9 on the EK 43; with a narrower, deeper brew bed the Phoenix brewer can get choked if the grind is too fine. Even so, the brew bed showed some silt and the brew itself was pretty slow to drain, nearly reaching 4 minutes. It didn’t really matter: this cup was truly delicious. Bursting with pomegranate, cranberry, blackberry, fig jam, bergamot, and butterscotch, this washed Burundi is incredibly clean and juicy.