Bukeye Coffee Washing Station was the first processing site built by the Long Miles Coffee Project (LMCP), in January of 2013, on the border of Muramvya and Kayanza provinces. Since the beginning Bukeye has been a locus of innovation in everything from drying bed construction to methods for helping farmers reduce the Potato Taste Defect through pest management on their farms. Bukeye currently has 113 employees, most of whom come from coffee farming families in the surrounding hills.
LMCP is a microlot business. All of their infrastructure, systems, employees, and marketing are designed to support large numbers of unique and fully traceable coffees. Doing so in Burundi is especially difficult because farms produce very little cherry and are scattered across broad landscapes. They are also numerous, requiring the successful coordination of hundreds of farmers and processing staff just to produce a single differentiated lot. Importantly, such an effort requires sustainable prices to support, so the coffee itself needs to be as delicious as possible. Fortunately, LMCP excels at identifying landscapes and communities with potential, and investing heavily in farmer livelihood. With this formula they are easily producing many of the country’s best coffees each year.
LMCP organizes their farmer base by the hills they live on, designating delivery days of the week for each microregion. This is common practice for processors in Burundi, but unlike most, LMCP separates every hill and delivery day until processing is complete and a quality assessment has been made. This coffee is a blend of deliveries from Gaharo, Munyinya, Musumba, and Ninga hills. All farmer partners with LMCP and receive not only highly competitive prices and post-harvest premiums for their cherry, but also farm-level trainings covering canopy and fertilizer development, pruning, harvesting for quality and integrated pest management. These trainings are all provided by local “Coffee Scouts”, LMCP’s team of community-based trainers who serve as local instructors, and which was created during the first years of Bukeye’s operation. The education and high prices combined have helped many of LMCP’s farmers renew their faith in coffee as a long-term livelihood. Long Miles now works with a total of 5,500 farmers between their 3 washing stations, servicing 11 different hills.
Cherry from the surrounding farmers is floated and hand-sorted for maximum ripeness upon delivery to Bukeye. Once the cherry is depulped the parchment undergoes a dry 12-hour fermentation. After fermentation is complete the parchment is typically “footed” or agitated by dancing barefoot in the parchment to help the decomposed mucilage completely detach. Once the agitation is complete, the parchment is rinsed in fresh water, graded by density, and left to soak another 4-6 hours in a final rinse tank. Post soak, the parchment is moved to shaded drying beds to allow residual surface water to evaporate, during which it is hand-sorted for any insect damage and visual imperfections. Parchment is then moved again to the larger beds with no shade to dry completely, a process that typically takes 16-20 days.