Delicate floral aromatics introduce a cup with sweet, dessert-like flavors of creamy cocoa, vanilla, and peach. Look for the emergence of a delightfully refreshing white grape acidity as the coffee cools.
Thanks to the strategic addition of a reduced oxygen fermentation stage, this honey processed microlot from our friends at the Long Miles Coffee Project in Burundi possesses a ‘best of both worlds’ balance of flavor complexity and creamy sweetness that many honey processed lots fail to deliver.
Heza (pronounced HEY-za) washing station is built into the face of a cliff, overlooking the Kibira rainforest, on the border between Rwanda and Burundi. It was constructed in January 2014 and was the second washing station built as part of the Long Miles Coffee Project, a family enterprise started by Kristy and Ben Carlson. Since 2016, Passenger has purchased the lion’s share of our Burundi coffees from Long Miles. We are continuously inspired by the spirit of this endeavor and the quality (and qualities) of the coffees the Long Miles team produces.
The Communes of Burundi are subdivided into collines, which is French (one of the two official languages of Burundi) for “Hill.” Each of the five hills (Nkonge, Mutana, Mikuba, Gitwe, and Gishubi) that surround Heza washing station is a distinct geopolitical unit, and each microlot processed at Heza is named for the hill where it was harvested. During harvest, deliveries of coffee cherries are processed at Heza each day and kept separated by the hill from which they were delivered. Each year, Passenger’s green buying team works with Long Miles to identify a top wet processed lot from one of the Heza hills (our 2021 harvest selection represents Nkonge hill), to be presented as our Foundational Heza offering. And, in addition to this larger-volume annual purchase, we pursue ongoing collaboration with the Long Miles team to source additional coffees as candidates for the Reserve and Education Lot menus. This elegant, beautifully complex honey-processed lot from Mikuba hill was an immediate standout on a cupping table of pre-shipment samples and we are very proud to share it as one of our latest Reserve Lot selections.
While the Long Miles Coffee Project has produced honey processed microlots for a number of years running, their approach has seen some evolution since 2020. A “traditional” approach to honey processing is relatively straightforward: ripe coffee cherries are passed through a pulping machine to remove the fruit, after which the freshly pulped coffee is spread out to dry with some amount of sugary mucilage left on the surface of the seeds. In theory, a honey process targets a ‘best of both worlds’ middle road between wet processed and dry processed coffees, potentially resulting in a flavor profile with more clarity and complexity than many dry processed coffees while also delivering a depth of sweetness that many wet processed coffees lack. In our opinion, however, many honey processed coffees are underwhelming in the cup. Rather than delivering on the ‘best of both worlds’ target, some honeys are neither as clean and bright as a quality wet processed lot, nor as sweet and complex as a well executed dry processed lot.
After coming to the conclusion that some of their early experiments with traditional honey processing were tasting rather bland, the Long Miles team decided to introduce a “fermentation stage” to their approach. Rather than transferring the coffees to the drying beds immediately after pulping, the team began fermenting each lot in a reduced oxygen environment (a sealed plastic Afri-tank container) for a predetermined period of time before drying. This particular selection, from the 2021 harvest on Mikuba hill, was fermented in Afri-tank containers for 36 hours, following pulping. One of the finest honeys we have tasted from Long Miles to date, it delivers deep sweetness and an enjoyably creamy mouthfeel while still exhibiting impressively clean, terroir-driven flavor complexity.