Producer: Zuberi Matsitsi
Region: Nyagishiru, Muyinga
Altitude: 1,600-1,750m above sea level
Varietals: Red Bourbon
Farm size: <1 hectare on average
Nyagishiru is a newly developed washing station by a group that's known as Matraco or Matsitsi Trading Co (Mat-Tra-Co). They're also responsible for another washing station in Burundi called Businde. Nyagishiru washing station is located near the Ruvubu River, Buhinyuza Commune in the North East of Burundi. Nyagishiru is interesting because it's located in a province called Muyinga, where there is much less coffee production. The bulk of coffee production in Burundi comes from the Kayanza and Ngozi regions.
It's named after the beautiful nearby hills, pronounced [NNYA-GEE-SHE-ROO] and its focus is to find a home internationally for the coffee produced in this region. Matraco (Matsitsi Trading Co, the owner of the washing station) farms 7000 of his own trees on Nyagishiru Hill and has provided seedlings for the other 12 neighboring hills it collects cherry from in order to replace old, aged coffee trees. The washing stations producers have received a premium of 20% above the local market rate this season and Nyagishiru also pays its staff almost 60% above the rate for casual labor in Burundi. Nyagishiru has also provided funds for a school and health centre construction in the Muyinga Province.
While still in its infancy this washing station is professionally managed and has the potential to be one of the top washing stations in Burundi. It has 200 raised beds and uses a Mackinnon pulper. It has four fermentation tanks and two soaking/pre-floating tanks.
Natural coffees are floated and then taken to dry for up to 30 days on raised beds. While drying, they're constantly monitored and moved to ensure clean and uniform drying of the cherry.
Burundi is a small landlocked country at the crossroads of East and Central Africa, straddling the crest of the Nile-Congo watershed. Sandwiched between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, Burundi has beautiful Lake Tanganyika for much of its western border.
It has an ideal terrain for coffee, with growing regions dispersed in the central and northern areas. Burundi is dominated by hills and mountains, with considerable altitude variation, from the lowest point being the lake at 772 meters above sea level to the top of Mount Heha at 2670 meters.
Coffee cultivation is an entirely smallholder farmer activity with over 700,000 families directly involved in coffee farming. Their combined total acreage is roughly 60,000 hectares in the whole country and planted with about 25 million coffee trees.
Like Rwanda, Burundi is primarily planted in Bourbon, which is grown at high altitudes ranging from 1250 to 2000 meters. Also like Rwanda, smallholder farmers of Burundi tend to about 50 to 250 trees. Historically, coffee from the area was sold as bulked “Ngoma Mild” coffee (Ngoma is a traditional drum). The farmers would bring their coffee to local washing stations, which along with 20-30 other wet mills, made up the Sogestal. All the coffee collected from the Sogestal members would be blended, and separating qualities was not possible.
Several years ago, the coffee market was “liberalized”. This meant that individual washing stations could now keep coffees separate, and then market the individual lots to buyers by station, “day lots”, or processing batches. With this comes the new possibility to find gems that were formerly mixed in with the not-so-good lots. So new possibilities are emerging in Burundi, and it is an origin to pay attention to.