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intro

Intro by Chris Kornman

This is a lovely dry processed coffee, with a lot of subtle fruit character and no booziness to be found. It tastes of plums and raspberries and is elegantly sweet and pleasantly clean in the finish. We’re popping it into our hoppers here at the Crown for espresso service.

It was a harrowing year getting coffee in from Burundi, but here we are and the results — despite some extreme and unexpected logistical hurdles — speak for themselves. This is our third year working with Salum Ramadhan, 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 naturals are then dried in a single-cherry layer spread across a vast network of drying tables.

Burundi is in the midst of ongoing political upheaval. This year is an election year and the government has begun the process of possibly nationalizing coffee production. It’s very likely that the landscape, both coffee and otherwise, will look somewhat different next year at this time.

For further reading on Burundi, you might start here, with a recent article published in Coffee Tea & I magazine.

green

Green Analysis by Chris Kornman

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. This is a dense coffee, with perhaps the nicest moisture and water activity figures I’ve seen from Salum’s coffees yet.

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 may still scare 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.

taste

ikawa

Ikawa Analysis by Chris Kornman with Doris Garrido

We’ve updated our V2 Ikawa Pro machines with the latest Firmware version (24) and run on “closed loop” setting. Our roasters underwent full service in October of 2018 which included replacement heating elements and an updated PT 1000 temperature sensor, and were recalibrated in September 2019.

Crown Barista Doris Garrido took the helm at the Ikawa this week (who, when she’s not sample roasting or slinging cappuccinos on bar, can be found mixing mezcal with coffee). Doris’ taste in coffee tends towards the smoother side, so she frequently crafts profiles with longer Maillard or post-crack development. In this case, she took a side-by-side comparison of my 1.4 roast with a +40 seconds roast that also slightly lowered the end temperature.

On this natural Burundi, the panel was completely split on preference. My profile produced a plummy cup with concord grape, marzipan, milk chocolate, and dried fruit, but a little grassy when hot. Doris’ profile yielded strong dark chocolate notes, with cranberries, cherry, brown sugar, molasses and pipe tobacco flavors. Why not try both?

You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:

Roast 1: Crown 6m NatEth ck1.4

Roast 2: Crown 6m NatEth ck1.DG

probatino

Roast Analysis by Alex Taylor

It’s been really exciting to see the first coffees we served when we opened The Crown come back through the Crown Jewel pipeline! We all have such fond memories of how amazing these coffees tasted last year, and while there’s always the possibility that the excitement of The Crown’s opening skewed our memories, I do not think that has been the case. Each time we’ve tasted these new arrivals I have been super impressed. This particular coffee had me really excited; we served it on the espresso bar last year, and this is the coffee that really turned me into an espresso drinker!

It’s been a while since I worked on the Probatino for some CJ analysis roasts, but I was happy to knock the rust off. I went with one of my usual roast plans: start with a low heat soak, turn up the gas shortly after turnaround, and start stepping off the gas a little after color change. Despite being fairly dense, this coffee took heat well early on in the roast and carried through the middle stage. I made my first gas decrease about 90s after color change, and another about 10 degrees before I expected first crack, as I noticed the coffee’s momentum giving me hints that it might not slow down as easily as I’d like it to. This worked out well, and I cruised into first crack, turning the heat back up a smidge to keep things from stalling out. I nearly hit my target end temperature of 400F on the nose, in just over 7:30. Compared to some of the other natural process coffees I’ve had the pleasure of roasting, this was an absolute breeze! In fact, if you compare my roast of this coffee, with the fully washed coffee from the same producer, you’ll see that these two coffee roasted almost identically (and both tasted good, for the record)! I can’t say for sure whether this is a definitive indicator of anything, but if nothing else it is a testimony to the hard work and attention to detail put in by Salum and co. These coffees are both beautifully and consistently prepared, which can make a roaster’s like a heck of a lot easier! I’ve included the roast curve for CJ1329 here as well, for comparison.

This coffee was a bit of a fun surprise the next day on the cupping table; we tasted lots of floral notes, light raspberry, strawberry, and lemon up front, and sweet notes driven by plum, nectarine, brown sugar and dark chocolate rounding things out. Not nearly as funky or winey as naturals from this region can be. It’s much more subtle with its fruitiness and overall cleaner and easier drinking. Need more proof? Come grab a cup in the Tasting Room! This coffee will be hitting the menu right around the beginning of February!

quest m3s

Quest M3s Analysis by Evan Gilman

Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Quest roasts. Generally, I’ll allow the machine to warm up for 15 minutes until my environmental temperature reading is at least 250F, weigh out 150g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature.  Read my initial post here and my updated post here.

This week brings a few coffees we’ve seen in the past years, and this Burundi natural has been on our minds since the last time we tasted it. Forgiving for a natural processed coffee, there was nothing staggeringly different about this coffee in the roaster.

I tried something new with this week’s Quest M3s roasts – starting at full heat application (about 11.5A) and maximum airflow until turning point. At turning point, I quickly reduced heat application to the usual 9.5A, and cut airflow to the minimum. I was going for the most extreme heat an airflow method possible on the Quest, and it seems to have worked swimmingly.

Gently increasing airflow, I started at 3 on the dial at 3:10 / 275F. Shortly after at 3:30 / 290F, I reduced heat application to 7.5A since the coffee was gaining clear momentum through drying stage. I allowed this coffee to continue at 7.5A, and increased airflow to maximum at First Crack ( 7:00 / 381F ) in order to abate smoke and slow down my rate of rise a bit. With a drop at 8:30 / 396F, I didn’t get this coffee super far into sugar development, but got 17.6% Post-Crack Development time.

I would have liked to spend a bit more time in Maillard than in drying, but dry as I may (forgive me the pun), it is quite difficult to get a coffee like this to spend the majority of its time in Maillard. Give this coffee extra heat at the outset, and roll back the heat just a little before Maillard starts for the best results. Regardless, this coffee had delicious notes of cherry, pomegranate, nougat, and white grape juice. We’re going to serve it as our batch brew in the front of house at The Crown!

Burundi has seen some serious changes in the way coffee is handled, and the country is now moving to nationalize the coffee infrastructure. This could be either beneficial or detrimental to the specialty coffee industry there, but what’s sure is that there will be changes, and we may not see a coffee like this from Burundi again anytime soon. Savor it while you can!

brew

Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor

It can be challenging to come up with new things to try for our weekly brew analysis, but this week we had a fun two-birds-with-one-stone sort of idea. We always color track our roasts to provide concrete numbers for roasters to be able to reference, but for our Quest roasts, this typically consumes all the coffee we just roasted! But this week, Evan asked “Why not use the ground coffee from color tracking for brew analysis?” Short answer, the coffee grounds for color track are usually finer than we prefer for manual brews, but still – we should have thought of this sooner. So for our first round of brews, Elise brewed up the quest roasts (using a Melodrip to try to accomodate the finer grind) and I brewed a round of v60’s using coffee from the Probatino roasts.

Much like it did on the cupping table for the roast analysis, this coffee continued to impress us with its complexity, balance, and cleanliness. In the Quest brew, we tasted raspberry, peach, rosewater, kumquat, golden raisin, meyer lemon, cola, and dark chocolate! Yes, it was that good! The v60 brew kept the part going, with notes of blood orange, cranberry, more rose, berries, maple syrup, and even more chocolate. This coffee kept surprising us at every turn (maybe we should’ve started expecting it to be shockingly good), and I am so, so excited for it to hit the Tasting Room menu in just a few weeks!

Origin Information

Grower
Smallholder farmers organized around Salum Ramadhan’s Buzira Coffee Washing Station
Variety
Batian, Jackson, K7, Mbirizi 49, Mbirizi 68, SL28
Region
Muruta community, Kayanza, Burundi
Harvest
March - July
Altitude
1900 - 2100 masl
Soil
Sandy loam
Process
""Natural" dried in the fruit on raised beds.
Certifications

Background Details

Burundi is on the road less traveled and captures less attention in the coffee world than some of its African neighbors. Fortunately at Royal we have some talented people, like Chris Korman, who have made the journey and built relationships that serve as the foundation for good supply chain. Burundi is truly a place where coffee trade done well can positively impact the lives of many who otherwise suffer from the constant uncertainty of civil unrest. For the last several years Royal has worked with Salum Ramadhan who was born and raised in Burundi. Salum operates several washing stations in Kayanza growing region, which reflect his passion for coffee and his community. Cherries are delivered to the washing stations from thousands of producers who cultivate and harvest from just a few hundred coffee trees. Lots are meticulously separated fully traceable to harvest date and washing station. Each lot is classified through a strict protocol that includes hand sorting and floating the cherry. The cherry is gently dried on raised beds until the moisture reaches 11 percent, after which the coffee is stored until it is time to prepare for export. Salum pays well above the government minimum for cherry and pays farmers extra to sort cherries. He also encourages the farmers keep and process unused cherry for personal consumption or to sell in the local market. Salum has a nursery program to distribute seedlings to farmers. He has also been paying to build additional classroom to alleviate problems with overcrowding in the schools.