Our roaster Ludwika is in Burundi where she will be spending six weeks working at Migoti Hill. This is the first of our weekly updates on what life has been like at the washing station.
Ludwika’s trip has been possible thanks to the introduction by James of Omwani Coffee through whom we have sourced many fantastic East African coffees over the past few years. Migoti Hill washing station has been built by Migoti Coffee Company with whom Ludwika is working. She is staying with Dan and his family who have been incredibly welcoming hosts and is working closely with Zephyrin, the lab manager at the washing station. Check out this link for a great place to get a bit of background on coffee production in Burundi.
The first couple of days were spent settling in, shopping for food in Bujumbura, and sharing a selection of coffees Ludwika brought from Scotland. They cupped coffees from Steampunk, including our roast of Migoti Hill along with roasts of experimental processed coffees from Manifesto, Cult and Cairngorm.
The cupping lab at the washing station
It is a busy time at the washing station just now as the harvest is arriving so they very quickly got to work in the cupping lab. The pictures below show Ludwika and Zephyrin in the lab manually de-hulling coffee samples, these are then roasted in the sample roaster and cupped. They are hoping to send out a full container of coffee to the UK very soon so the cupping lab will be a very busy place as all of the lots are roasted and cupped for quality.
Ludwika has already learned that sample roasting is totally different due to the altitude where the station is and has been learning about roasting at high altitudes (link included for the super nerdy).
Here is the cupping table where they were cupping the first 24 out of the 60 lots that have arrived so far - 20 washed and 4 naturals. They need to not only assess the quality but also decide which will be mixed together into bigger lots and which are worth keeping separate as smaller (micro) lots. Every lot gets ‘taxed’ meaning the government quality control takes some (4-7kgs) to check quality. This means that bigger lots are more efficient to ship.
How the day starts
First, of course coffee...
Then the day at the washing station begins with the morning meeting.
Then the farmers begin to arrive - here are some pictures of farmers arriving early in the morning with their bags of cherry (what the coffee is called at this just picked stage). Small lots came first - here is Bapfumukeko Jerome - he was tickled by the idea of being on Instagram in the UK. Bigger lots arrive at the station later in the day.
Ludwika has started to make friends, though it took a few days for people to be less shy in coming up to chat. She accidentally caused chaos mid week when she tried to follow the journey of the coffee cherry from where the farmers bring it to sell right along to the end of the process at the drying tables. She didn’t realise that all of the women had followed her, showing how to pick out the bad coffees until eventually there was nobody left working! She has been enjoying getting to know the folk working at the washing station.
On Saturday they ventured down the mountain to Bujumbura, the capital, to look at refurbished espresso machines to see about purchasing one for the washing station.
The journey down the mountain is made on the back of one of the ubiquitous motorbike taxis - no pictures as Ludwika was hanging on for dear life. In the city she visited Buja Cafe and met their roaster Aimable.
Buja Cafe also roast in house (just like Steampunk) - their cafe is gorgeous, check out the link. Aimable was interested in Cropster (the software we use for roast profiling) and offered that Ludwika could return one Monday to roast with him - she is looking forward to that immensely. He has no working probes so roasts entirely on smell and intuition - an incredible skill.
Ludwika has managed to get some time off too, enjoying the park which is full of people chilling, just like a Saturday in the Meadows in Edinburgh.
Next on Ludwika’s schedule is a hike up to the other station where they process only naturals - we will tell you about that in the next post!
This is the very start of the coffee bean's long journey once it is picked - from washing station, to dry mill, to port and then on its long voyage to its purchasers all around the world who will sell it to roasters and they in turn on to consumers. We are currently roasting the Migoti Hill which was coming down off the mountain this time last year and it is now nearing the end of its long journey - in your cup. It's quite something when you think about it.