Your favorite Coffee of the Month Club is pleased to introduce you to Burundi, a small and beautiful landlocked country at the crossroads of East and Central Africa that straddles the crest of the Nile-Congo watershed. Sandwiched between Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, it has magnificent views over Lake Tanganyika, which provides much of its western border.

This country is dominated by hills and mountains, with considerable altitude variation. The lowest point in the country is 772 m at Lake Tanganyika, while the highest soars to 2,670 m above sea level at the tip of Mount Heha. Burundi, colonized by Germany at the end of the 19th century, then mandated to Belgium after WWI, achieved independence in 1962.

Despite its size, it is densely populated with about 6.5 million people. Predominantly agricultural, 86% of the workforce is employed in that sector. Coffee is the main commercial crop, accounting for two-thirds of export income. Other cash crops include tea, cotton, tobacco and palm oil. They subsist on cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes, maize and sorghum.

Burundi is a relative newcomer on the American specialty coffee market. Its coffees are produced on small plots by villagers in the north of the country. It is wet processed at small mills, then sold at auction to exporters in a system resembling the Kenya auction system. Burundi, while not officially recognized as providing organically grown coffee, truly does, as the farmers simply cannot afford chemicals.
Mostly grown in full shade, coffee from Burundi is known for its signature balanced body, brightness, and sweet/bittersweet flavors.
Bolivia is a land of spectacular geographical contrasts. Straddling the Andes mountain range in central South America, Bolivian landscape ranges from snow-covered peaks, to a barren high plateau, to lush tropical lowlands. It is completely landlocked by Chile, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Main coffee production comes from the Yungas region of the La Paz area, at altitudes of 4,900 to 6,000 feet. La Paz, the capital, is located at 12,000 feet asl, making it the world’s highest capital. Small landholders with farms averaging 10 hectares, grow 95% of Bolivia’s coffee.

Initially coffee trees were used as property markers or to line roads. By the 1950’s coffee had become a sufficiently lucrative crop, suited for export. The combination of altitude, soil and a well-timed rainy season means the area is ideal for high quality Arabica coffee cultivation. With the explosion of the special coffee market, Bolivia has recruited help from Colombia in improving its coffee trade.

Instead of dense cultivation of 10,000 coffee trees per hectare, the growing regions have changed to only 1,500 trees per hectare, grown in the natural tropical forest. This harmony with the fragile rainforest ecosystem has lead to the production of better coffee, while preserving one of the world’s most important resources.
The main market for Bolivian coffee is Europe. Germany is the largest buyer, followed by the Netherlands and Spain. It has yet to capture the American market. Our selection this month is an organically grown and fair trade certified coffee.

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Amy Heydt
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