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Steampunk Coffee Roasters

Burundi Migoti Hill

Burundi Migoti Hill

Regular price £13.00 GBP
Regular price Sale price £13.00 GBP
Sale Sold out
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Size
Grind

Region: Bujumbura
Altitude: 1800masl
Variety: Red Bourbon
Processing: Washed


Tasting Notes: An exemplary Burundian coffee with vibrant redcurrant balanced by butterscotch sweetness. Clean, juicy and well structured.

About this Coffee

This is our fourth coffee from Migoti Hill Coffee Company, with whom we’ve been working since visiting them two years ago. Previous lots you might remember were an elegant washed lot called Masenga and a punchy natural called Kinama. This coffee is a washed coffee, which means that after the cherry was picked it was depulped to remove the fruit, fermented in water tanks to remove the remaining mucilage and then the remaining bean was dried on raised beds to a stable moisture content. We’ll be releasing a natural processed Burundi lot grown and processed by a friend of Steampunk’s Head of Coffee soon, so lookout for that. 

This coffee has juicy yellow stone fruit notes like peach, apricot and nectarine along with flavours of bergamot and black tea, a vanilla note and caramel sweetness. It’s coating and syrupy on the palate. 

 

About the Harvest

The 2023 Burundi harvest is a case study in how global forces can impact the coffee in your cup. In a nutshell, prices were higher and the crop took longer to get here due to macroeconomic and geopolitical issues.

There were three main factors impacting the harvest and importing of this coffee. First, due to the plummeting value of Sterling during the export season and a 60% increase in the Burundian government’s regulated fixed price for coffee cherries, the cost of finance for the harvest increased dramatically. Second, according to one importer we work with, during the harvest period there was a “catastrophic” diesel shortage in Burundi, complicating the logistics of getting coffee from this landlocked country. And finally, shipments were delayed by several months by the threat of attacks on container ships in the Red Sea. Imports from East Africa have had to either take the longer route around the southern tip of Africa, or take on the higher insurance cost and risk passage through the Red Sea. Both of these options significantly increased costs and caused massive timeline delays. 

All of this is a problem for the importers, who have money tied up in the coffee until they can deliver it to roasters like us. And it’s a problem for roasters because we plan our coffee releases months ahead of time, so we expected to be able to sell the coffee in November, but had to reshuffle our entire plan to accommodate the delays. And there was the looming prospect of the coffee having lost its freshness enroute. Shipping containers are not the ideal storage conditions for green beans; the heat could have caused them to prematurely taste stale. We didn’t know what we’d have on the cupping table when the coffee finally got to us. Luckily, this lot and the other lot we bought both came through tasting great. 

 

About Migoti

Migoti Coffee was founded by Pontien Ntunzwenimana and Dan Brose, two Burundi-born engineers who wanted to make a difference in the community where Pontien was born and raised. Their goal was to connect local Burundian coffee farmers, through quality coffee processing and transparent supply chains, with buyers and roasters from around the world. The company buys coffee cherries grown by smallholder farmers whose plots are in the surrounding mountains overlooking Lake Tanganyika. Their original washing station was built in 2016, and a second one, Kinama Hill, was built in 2022. Migoti has been working hard to grow the number of farmers they buy from, begin a microfinancing program, build a village hydropower plant and facilitate intercropping to diversify farmer income. 

The company’s two stations are run by a local team of 10 permanent staff and over 250 temporary workers who are employed during the coffee season from March to June. The majority of the temporary staff are women who regularly turn the coffee as it dries on raised drying tables and remove defective beans that compromise quality. 

The manager of Migoti station is Zephyrin Banzubaze, with whom our Head of Coffee, Ludwika Kopczynska, worked closely when she visited in 2022. Zephyrin also owns a washing station of his own and this year, for the first time, his coffee was available to buy in the UK. We’ll be roasting 20 sacks of it as our shop espresso this summer!

Irene Nshimirimana manages the newer Kinama station. Together Zephyrin and Irene are responsible for managing the staff, communicating with coffee farmers, receiving and selecting coffee cherries, processing the coffee, overseeing the drying process, storing and milling the dry parchment coffee and preparing the final green coffee for export. The team at the two washing stations also work closely with their supplying producers to provide education and support on things like pruning, planting shade trees, utilising green fertilisers, stabilising soils and natural pest control.

We at Steampunk were introduced to the folks at Migoti by Omwani importers. Inspired by co-founder James Wilkinson’s clear dedication to building relationships at origin, we began buying coffee from Omwani in 2020 (Uganda Bukonzo Dream was our first lot from them). Omwani began working with Migoti in 2020. In 2022 James facilitated a knowledge exchange trip for Ludwika to go to Burundi to help Migoti design lots from that year’s harvest. 

In their Season Report on Migoti Omwani says, “We have an incredible amount of respect for the way Migoti run and continue to build their operations. Not only are they professional and well organised, but they’re also open and honest with information, not to mention dedicated to supporting and improving the lives of the farmers they work with.” We’ve found the same to be true. Since Ludwika’s trip she’s kept in contact with Dan, Pontien and Zephyrin, often sending questions and talking with them about coffee. They’re always happy to answer and share their insight about everything from agriculture to the coffee market generally. 

Prior to 2015, the multi-generational coffee farmers in Pontien’s home community had all but abandoned coffee as a source of income due to the 12-year civil war, during which their Arabica coffee trees were neglected and destroyed. Another challenge was the great distance between their small farms and washing stations, which meant farmers had to dry coffee naturally on their farms. Their lack of equipment and training in quality control meant that the coffee they produced lost a lot of value. Crucially, they also didn’t have access to the specialty market, where the true value of their coffee could be realised. 

Quality coffee production is just one of the entrepreneurial projects that Pontien has planned in his community. He and Dan have developed a small hydropower plant to provide low-cost renewable energy to the local community and to the coffee washing station. Also, they are investigating botanical crops for local coffee farmers to plant on their farms and process into essential oils at Migoti station. This project will help to diversify the farmers’ income. 

In addition to these projects, according to their 2023 Season Report, Migoti has taken the step to introduce a microfinancing program for local farmers, an initiative that allows them to access modest loans for essentials such as household fixtures or farming tools. The launch of this microfinancing program is backed by Migoti’s experience of working with farmers for the last seven years. Migoti’s team has organised and recorded the coffee delivered by each farmer, information which allows Migoti to make informed decisions on the amount to lend and what to expect in return. 

Coffee isn’t a great cash crop because in most places there is one harvest each year, which means farmers get paid once per year. And the amount of that payment isn’t guaranteed. There’s a risk that prices will go up or down or the harvest will be damaged by disease, pests or processing problems. So it’s tempting for farmers who are managing a high level of risk and don’t have many ways to make money to sell their coffee to traders offering advance payments before the harvest season. This is one way coffee farmers are exploited in many origins. In Central and South America these kinds of traders are known as coyotes. Their advance payments are much lower than what farmers would receive if they could afford to allow the coffee to ripen fully, employ careful picking and then sell to a washing station with a connection to the specialty market. By offering small loans, Migoti are enabling farmers to access money before harvest season, then pay it back once they have sold their coffee for a more sustainable price.

Burundi is among the smallest coffee producing countries in East Africa. It has ideal conditions for coffee production with elevations of 1,500 - 2,000 m.a.s.l. and abundant rainfall. Approximately 800,000 families country-wide cultivate an average of 150 - 200 coffee trees per farm. Arabica, specifically the Red Bourbon variety, represents nearly all of Burundi's coffee production which, along with the unique terroir of the mountains, lends Burundi coffees their distinctive bright, juicy acidity and floral character.

 

Producer-Led Project

Omwani is facilitating several producer-led projects at the origins in which they operate. The project in Burundi is the most ambitious of them all. Migoti is raising money to build a clean water reservoir and the plumbing infrastructure needed to pump it to local communities. Their goal is just under £145,000 and as of May 2024 they’ve raised £21,000. Steampunk will donate £1 per tin of coffee sold. If we sold all the coffee in this lot as 250g tins we’d be able to donate over £1,000 to the project! If you’d like to learn more or make an individual donation go to Water Distribution in Burundi | Omwani.

 

A note about packaging

Our coffee comes packaged in beautiful and hard wearing tins of 250g. It is important to keep those beans away from air and light (see our blog post about coffee storage) and we think tins are the very best way of keeping those guys fresh. If you order the 1kg refill size, the coffee is packaged in a fully recyclable plastic bag, see the link below for full information on the material and recycling.

Tins can of course be easily recycled (with other metals) but the very best and most environmentally conscious thing to do with them is to refill them. Find out how to refill or dispose of your Steampunk packaging HERE.

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