Mibirizi Coffee Washing Station was founded in 2014 and serves about 2,750 smallholder producers in the area around the Kayaza commune. Producers deliver their freshly harvested coffee cherry to the mill, where it undergoes what the washing station describes as "double fermentation," and the time will vary based on the weather and the space that is available at the mill: First the coffee is depulped, then it is fermented dry for 12 hours. Then it is fermented underwater for 6 or 18 hours, fully washed, and then given a soak underwater for either 12 or 10 hours.
Farmers here own less than half a hectare of land, on average, and in addition to growing coffee, they also grow crops like bananas, beans, yams, taro, and cassava, both for sale and for household use.
Due to the small size and yield on the average coffee farm or plot, washing stations are the primary point of purchase for us in Burundi. Unlike other coffee-growing regions in Central and South America where landholdings are slightly larger and coffee-centric resources are more available, most producers do not have space on their property or the financial means to do their wet- or dry-milling. Instead, the majority of growers deliver cherry to a facility that does sorting, blending, and post-harvest processing of day lots to create different offerings.
Since 2006, we have cupped coffees from more than 50 washing stations in an attempt to pinpoint those with the best practices, cleanest cups, and most high-quality nearby farms. While the logistics of buying coffees from Burundi are extremely challenging, we love the heavy figgy, fruity, and lively coffees we find here—they remind us like a Malbec, with a firm support of acidity.