Kibingo Washing Station
Kibingo Central Washing Station (CWS) lies in the commune of Kayanza in northern Burundi. The station itself sits 1,893 meters above sea level and it serves farms in the neighboring hills that reach elevations of up to 1,900 meters above sea level.
Kibingo serves 3,515 registered coffee growers, spread over 18 hills in the area. All producers registered at a Greenco washing station are organized in groups of 30 people, headed by a farm leader. This leader acts as a spokesman to facilitate communication and organization with the washing station.
Kibingo CWS was chosen as Greenco’s first yeast process experimentation site because it’s one of Greenco’s best CWSs. The altitude is high and allows for slow fermentation and drying times. The cherry coming in and coffees coming out benefit from the high altitude of the station and the surrounding farmland. Coffees from Kibingo are known for being complex and floral and having high acidity. The yeast inoculation during fermentation serves to further enhance these characteristics, creating an exceptional coffee.
The majority of coffee trees in Burundi are Red Bourbon, which is tightly controlled by the government for reasons of quality. Because of the increasingly small size of coffee plantings, aging rootstock is a very big issue in Burundi. Many farmers have trees that are over 50 years old, but with small plots to farm, it is difficult to justify taking trees entirely out of product for the 3-4 years it will take new plantings to begin to yield. In order to encourage farmers to renovate their plantings, Greenco purchases seeds from the Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU), establishes nurseries and sells the seedlings to farmers at or below cost.
Harvest & Post-harvest
During the harvest season, all coffee is selectively hand-picked. Most families only have 200 to 250 trees, and harvesting is done almost entirely by the family. Greenco knows that even small distances can be time-consuming and expensive to travel for smallholder farmers, and they know that receiving cherry immediately after harvest is crucial to quality. Therefore, smallholders can bring their cherries either directly to a central washing station (CWS) or to one of the 12 collection sites situated throughout growing areas. Farmers are paid the same for their quality cherry regardless of where they bring their cherries. In this way, farmers are not disadvantaged due to their location and Greenco bears the cost of transport to CWS’s.
Greenco also supports farmers with higher prices. The average cherry buying price for Greenco in 2019 was significantly above average. CWSs make the first payment to farmers between 15-30 June. The second payment comes later in the summer. If the coffee wins a competition or sells for extremely high specialty prices, Greenco gives another payment approximately a year after the harvest season.
Of course, quality is the key to this system, and quality assurance begins as soon as farmers deliver their cherry. Cherries are processed under constant supervision. The pulping, fermentation time, washing, grading in the channels and a final soaking is closely monitored.
Upon delivery all cherry is floated in small buckets as a first step to check quality. Greenco still purchases floaters (damaged, underripe, etc) but immediately separates the two qualities and only markets floaters as B-quality cherry. After floating, the higher quality cherry is sorted again by hand to remove all damaged, underripe and overripe cherries.
After sorting, cherry is pulped within 6 hours of delivery. During pulping, cherry is separated into high- and low-grade by density on a Mackinon 3-disc pulper outfitted with an additional separation disk. After pulping, the coffee is placed in airtight, Epoxy-coated, concrete fermentation tanks. Cima yeast purchased from the French company Lalcafe is added to the tanks. The tanks are then covered and left to ferment in this environment for approximately 36 hours.
LALCAFÉ CIMA™ yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) was especially developed for coffee production over a four-year period of research and trials. Trials in various regions and environments showed that Cima is well suited to better control the wet process’ efficiency and to upgrade the cup quality. The yeast is able to control the fermentation process against the risk of spoilage micro-organisms that can generate undesirable defects. Furthermore, its specific metabolism and its high capacity of implantation even at cold temperatures (minimum 15°C inside the coffee tank) allows for the expression of fresh and fruity characteristics of the coffee beans while respecting the varietal original aromas of the beans.
The longer fermentation time for yeast processed coffees (washed processed typically ferments for about 12 hours) also allows for more developed flavors. The extra time enables the beans to absorb metabolites, which can enhance flavors. Complexity, acidity, brightness, floral and high notes and more are all boosted by the lengthened fermentation time.
After fermentation is completed, coffee is run through washing and grading canals. In total, the channel separates beans into seven grades according to density. After washing, this parchment is poured onto wooden trays or nylon bags and carried to the drying tables, each in its separate quality group. Each tray and nylon bag of parchment keeps its traceability tag with all info.
The beans are then transported to the drying tables where they will dry slowly for 2-3 weeks, during which time the parchment is repeatedly sorted and sifted to ensure even drying. The parchment is left to dry from sunrise to sunset and is covered with a sheet during the evening or when it rains. If the weather conditions are good, the parchment takes on average 10 to 14 days to dry. The moisture level is carefully monitored and any parchment with visual defects is removed. On the table, the beans are dried to 11.5%.
Once dry, the parchment coffee is then bagged and taken to the warehouse. Greenco’s team of expert cuppers assess every lot (which are separated by station, day and quality) at the lab. The traceability of the station, day and quality is maintained throughout the entire process.
Before shipment, coffee is sent to Budeca, Burundi’s largest dry mill. The coffee is milled and then hand sorted by a team of hand-pickers who look closely at every single bean to ensure zero defects. It takes a team of two hand-pickers a full day to look over a single bag. UV lighting is also used on the beans and any beans that glow—usually an indication of a defect—is removed.