Our roaster Ludwika is in Burundi where she is spending six weeks working at Migoti Hill. Here we share weekly updates on what life is like at the washing station. This week is the best one of the year as it is the one where the smallholders farmers who bring their coffee cherry to the washing station get paid. There has also been some work on experimental processing methods.
This week started with some decision making about lot selection. An endless process of sample roasting and cupping each tiny batch of coffee has helped in the decision making about which cherry to combine into 'lots' together.
Ludwika chose 2 microlots that will be kept separate for us to roast at Steampunk! We cannot wait!
They also chose the best experimental methods based on cupping some tiny test lots they had done of Anaerobic, Yeast and Lacto washed and naturals.
Today's fresh cherries are turning into something very special.
Not only the experimentals, but all the lots of coffee need to be sample roasted and then cupped. Five solid hours of roasting on the Ikawa sample roaster and then a visitor arrives...
The first half of the week was basically this. Roast, cup, roast, cup. But then came the most exciting (and busy) day of the year so far...
Thursday is Payday!
Last Thursday was the day that the farmers got their first payment of the year (there is a second one in August). The day started at 6am and payments continued all day until 11:30 at night.
The morning began with an organised queue.
Pontien Habinimana (below) is collecting money not only for his own sales but also for a relative. When collecting for someone else, people need to bring their id and go to one of the admin assistants (Eduardo today) to have a document written to confirm that the administrator has seen their id.
Because of the number of people, Zephyrin was giving out numbers to try to keep the queue in order.
By noon the crowds became too much and the payments were moved to the office. The plan was for a maximum queue of 10 outside and two inside.
The office is at the bottom of the washing station and the queue soon snakes up the stairs.
There are no longer only 10 in the queue.
Each producer brings their card which is a record of all of the deliveries they have made to the washing station.
Records are logged onto the sheet and the payment is made in cash.
Payments vary from as little as 30000 BiF (one Orange banknote is 10000) to huge pile of 10000s.
A fingerprint is taken to as proof that a payment has been made to that farmer.
The payments continue late into the night.
It was time to see how the experimental processing was going - right in the midst of the farmer payments!
At 3pm Ludwika and Zephyrin went to take out the 72 hour anaerobic experiment out of the barrels and move them onto the drying tables.
Everyone got involved in carrying the heavy wet coffee cherry…
Of all the coffee to carry, Ludwika chose the smelly, dripping wet and heavy anaerobic cherry which caused a real laugh.
The coffee cherry was spread out on the raised beds to dry.
The cherry that had finished drying was put into large white sacks.
Afterwards they carried the dried coffees in to the warehouse where they are stored until they can be shipped to the dry mill.
Ludwika is not sure how much help she was but definitely felt the appreciation that she mucked in with the carrying.
Friday: A micro finance company visits
On Friday, Dan and Pontien hosted a visit from people from a micro finance company.
It is hoped that they will open an office here next year. This would help development in the area and enable farmers to get the loans they desperately need to grow coffee, improve quality and most importantly have stability.
Here the visitors are being given a tour of the washing station, followed by lunch.
After that busy week at the washing station, it was back to Bujumbura for the weekend and a chance to visit the beautiful Bahizi cafe:
Next week … the first shipment of coffee starts its journey away from the washing station.