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. The network of IWCA farmer members in Burundi is now more than 2,000, whose coffee is differentiated by membership, marketed for its traceability and impact, and which generates end-of-year premiums for all involved. In fact, the IWCA value chain has been so impactful that JNP has created additional programs to expand their farmer base and generate premiums beyond the IWCA registered growers.
This is one of those additional programs. A local leader of a producer group in Karuzi Province decided to seek JNP’s partnership. Karuzi is located in central Burundi and historically lesser known for its coffee compared to neighboring Ngozi and Kayanza provinces, considered to be Burundi’s top quality producers. The Karuzi group had heard of JNP’s assistance programs and post-harvest premiums and wanted to know how to get involved. Due to exactly this type of demand, JNP has established the “Dushime” program (dushime in Kirundi translates to “let’s be thankful”), which provides quality consulting, lot selection, marketing to JNP’s buyer community, and end-of-year premiums for participating groups not otherwise members of the IWCA. This coffee, created from only one distinct processing lot from this harvest, has been titled Ubuto, which translates to “young”. The name is a reflection of the brand-new partnership between JNP and Karuzi Province, as well as the literal age of the coffee trees themselves, which among this group are only a few harvests old, and distinctly youthful in the cup: this microlot is toasty sweet and fruited, like graham crackers and jam, with an acidic clarity and delicate floral layer that indicates many years of bright, assertive coffee ahead.
Fully washed processing by the Ubuto group is as detailed as anywhere in Burundi where the best coffees are produced. Cherry is floated for density and visible defects prior to depulping and fermentation. After fermentation is complete the wet parchment is sorted by density in concrete washing channels. Drying takes place at first under shade, and then in open air with the parchment piled into pyramids, which are flattened and re-shaped each day as a form of incremental air exposure to slowly and evenly dry the coffee and lock in the final moisture.