During colonization, Belgians forced the people of Burundi to grow coffee to pay taxes, an all too familiar story. So, it is understandable that after independence, the farmers of Burundi were less than enthusiastic about growing coffee and there was almost no focus on quality. When world coffee prices dropped to historic lows 20 years ago, prices paid to farmers by government run washing stations were so low that coffee was smuggled into neighboring countries to be sold as Rwandan or Tanzanian coffee. When prices began to rise and become relatively stable, Burundi coffee farmers in the northern highlands did not forget that Rwanda received better prices for quality. The coffee farmers of Burundi began to emulate some of what was happening in Rwanda, forming cooperatives and seeking ways to improve quality
Growing Coffee in Burundi
One clear indicator of a focus on quality is an increase in washing stations in a country where transportation is a challenge. The closer a washing station is to coffee trees, the greater control over quality and micro-climate specific separations. Burundi has seen a significant increase in the number of washing station over the last ten years and in recent years internal economic structures have liberalized enough for growers to experience increased income for increased quality. The cool highlands, soil, and altitude are ideal for growing excellent coffee.