In Photos: Burundi 2018

By David Shaub Stallings

For the past three years Passenger has purchased the lion's share of our Burundi coffees from the Long Miles Coffee Project. Driven by a desire to connect coffee producers in Burundi (a landlocked East African country that is less than one quarter the size of the state of Pennsylvania) with coffee roasters around the world, Long Miles started by focusing on sourcing coffees in this colorful country and has moved into becoming coffee producers themselves. Though the process by which the Long Miles Coffee Project brings coffee to market has changed since its inception, the passion of using coffee and story telling as tools to empower coffee producers in Burundi has remained central. These photos were taken in June of 2018 during a visit to Burundi. Be sure to check out to learn more about this remarkable project. Later this year we will do a blog post detailing the work this amazing group is doing. For now we hope you enjoy these pictures!

A gentlemen combs through parchment in the foreground. Cleaning out defective, broken or otherwise unwanted coffee seeds, along with foreign material is a critical step in producing a pristine finished product. Parchment is coffee that has been pulped, fermented and washed before going to the drying beds. In the background red cherries adorn the drying tables. These lots were not pulped and washed and thus are destined to be "Natural," or "Dry Processed" lots.
  • The Long Miles Coffee Project has built two Washing Stations that process the coffee cherries small holder farmers deliver. Passenger buys coffees produced at the Heza washing station.
  • Bukeye is the other Washing Station built by the LMCP team. 18 metric tons of coffee cherry was delivered one evening while we were visiting Burundi. All 18 tons arrived by foot or on the back of a bicycle.

It is not legal to propagate varieties other than heirloom Bourbon in Burundi. While this is limiting for visionaries like Ben and Kristy Carlson who essentially enable some of the coffee world's smallest producers to achieve relatively direct market access and who could successfully market exotic or boutique varieties, it could also be viewed as a net positive when compared to other countries who have historically favored cherry quantity at the sacrifice of cup quality and encouraged the planting of hybrids. That, however, is a very loaded topic and too deep for the scope of a picture caption!

Seth, manager of Bukeye Washing Station, stands where cherries will be delivered by small holder farmers. Most producers will arrive in the evening to deliver cherry and will stay late into the night - sorting through their cherries, noting the weight they delivered, and socializing with friends.
  • Feremtation times, drying times, drying table location and more is all meticulously documented by the LMCP crew.
  • An average 24 hour dry fermentation followed by grading in channels and finally a 4-6 hour soak produces spotless parchment.
Dorothy, a small holder who delivers coffee to the Bukeye Washing Station, shows us coffee that sits on her trees and will not ripen. She notes that the climate has been changing and forcing this to happen. Over the past three years we have heard more and more producers claim that the changing climate is affecting their crop.
A coffee cherry damaged by the Antestia Bug. The Antestia Bug is a potential cause of the potato defect - a coffee defect specific to some landlocked East African countries. The insect introduces a bacteria into the coffee seed that when roasted and ground results in a strong and distinct raw potato aroma. The LMCP has a team of Coffee Scouts that are trained in basic pest control and data collection and are actively (and successfully) waging war on these shielded bugs.
  • Innovation happening on all scales... why use the traditional plastic bags for growing seedlings when you can do it in banana leaves and plant the whole thing?
  • 7,600 miles from Miami (as the crow flies). I like to think the humor was not lost on the young woman, but I actually think it was just my being a Mzungu.

I do not typically share random pictures of people from origin. I try to be conscious of not using people as marketing material unless it is genuinely educational and/or helps push the industry forward in any way, regardless of how infinitesimal that forward motion may be. That said, when people come up to me and ask me to take their photo I somehow feel more comfortable sharing it. As such, I am sharing this picture of a woman walking on the road carrying, as so many do in Burundi, her goods on her head. There is no shortage of pure beauty in Burundi.

  • Traceability is a word tossed around quite a bit in coffee. The reality of it is loads of paperwork, notes, and documentation.
  • Who doesn't love to check out a good picture of themself with their friends?
And why not end with a picture of Nat... the resident cupping lab scoundrel/source of joy?