Life at Migoti Hill: Week 2

Life at Migoti Hill: Week 2

Our roaster Ludwika is in Burundi, she will be spending six weeks there working at Migoti Hill. Here we share weekly updates on what life is like at the washing station. This week we will look at natural vs washed processesing, visit a farmers market and learn more about Potato Taste Defect.

Kinama Station

This past week, Ludwika hiked to the washing station at Migoti Hill from another coffee station at Kinama which took around three hours as well as some time on the back of the bike taxi. She hiked with Pontien and Dan (the co-owners of Migoti) and Dan’s wife Tambry. 

They met kids on there way to school and were joined by a lady bringing her coffee to sell at Migoti.


When they had nearly arrived it started raining and they sheltered in one of the shops in Mutambu village - the folk there were so welcoming, bringing stools and letting them shelter from the rain inside their store.

Kinama opened a month ago and is managed by Irene who was trained at Migoti. 

[Pontien and Irene]

They only process naturals there at the moment but the plan is to build a washing station there to process the cherry using that method also. 

[above, site for washing station]

Prior to the station opening, farmers from the Kinama area had to walk the three hours to Migoti to sell their cherry. Remember that they do this at the end of their day of picking so they were sometimes not arriving at the station until after 11pm (and then had to walk all the way home). That is why they opened the Kinama station.

Because of the micro climate specific to Migoti Hill which has more rain and less sun, drying the coffee can take double the time here than it does in other areas in Burundi. Fully washed coffees can take 18-25 days and naturals 30+ days, depending on the weather. They need to achieve a specific moisture content (11%) to be ready to store prior to shipping to the dry mill. Zephyrin says although the length of drying time does cause difficulty, he believes it produces and even more complex flavour. 

[naturals drying at Kinama]

There is a whole additional story about the decision making behind choosing which processing method to use on the different lots and the quality assessment of the lots - more on that in a separate blog.

The cherry is dried on traditional raised beds - see picture below of construction.

To dry 5 tonnes of naturals you need 5 drying tables for 30+ days. By comparison, 5 tonnes of washed needs 2 tables for 22-30 days. There is a greater demand for naturals but due to the greater need for land on which to dry them, this poses a challenge for space. 

Migoti Hill Station

This week Zephyrin has been away on a course learning about preventing potato taste defect (PTD) - one of the biggest challenges for growing coffee in this region - see below. The courses are run through the project Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) and Zephyrin has attended several this year already. He is hoping to qualify as a Q grader but before they bought the Ikawa sample roaster, his only access to cuppings was at the dry mill. Hopefully now with a fitted out cupping lab at the station this will be possible for him.

[cupping lab at Migoti]

The government requires 'representation samples' now and it is important that they are the same quality as what will be brought to the dry mill later. They are dehulled and hand sorted here at the washing station, once the entire shipment is sent to the dry mill it is sorted by hand and machine and milled mechanically. The beans are kept 'in parchment' at the washing station prior to milling and export.

[On left is called 'in parchment' and on right is green beans after milling]

[Parchment store at Migoti]

ODECA decides which coffees are high enough grade to be allowed to be exported and they also sell producers supplies like sprays against the insects which cause potato taste defect (PTD) (Igifushi in Kurundi). Last year it seems there was not enough spraying for the potato defect which has caused problems. Find out more about PTD in this interesting article "What is Potato Taste Defect and how can coffee producers stop it?"

[Beans with visible defects]

While Zephyrin is away at his course, Ludwika spent time dehulling and working on new roast profiles with the Ikawa and cupping on her own. Some mornings, when there was neither water nor electricity she chilled out with a book for a while. She is learning to do things when she can rather than planned to, a personal learning curve ;-)

Here is Ludwika with Aline and Cynthia (on right), two ladies who work at Migoti Hill and who have been super kind and welcoming. These raised beds show naturals drying in front and washed coffees drying behind.

Coffees are processed at Migoti Hill through both washed and natural methods. Here are some pictures of the coffees being washed. 

We will do another blog with a step by step of the process from delivery of the cherry by the farmer to the parchment stage.

Ludwika has been showing Benjamin, a technician at Migoti, whose role is to fix the machinery, how the cupping process works. One of the challenges is describing the flavours in coffees is the cultural specificity of flavour descriptions (Check out Decolonising Coffee through Flavours).

Here is a picture of them trying the translate flavours like dry apricot or apple into things he knows. Ludwika brought some granola (imported so he would not know it) and he was trying bits, describing it in his language and translating into English. 

In return Benjamin took her to Mutambu farmers market and didn’t let her get lost or ‘overcharged’.


The next day they took the bikes back down the hill and then a tuk tuk to a cafe by Lake Tanganyika in Bujumburu for a latte.

The level of the water has risen dramatically so the beach has all but disappeared and the water is up against the side of the building. Here is another picture of Lake Tanganyika. 

Next week: Ludwika will be visiting some dry mills (approx 3 hour drive away) as Migoti Coffee decide where to send this season’s coffee for milling. They are hoping to send the first container in a week’s time. It is also the week where the farmers will be paid the first part of their income from the coffees (the next is in August). More on all of this in next week’s blog.

Back to blog