During the harvest, the cherries are selectively handpicked and delivered to the wet mill by each producer. The distance varies but can be anywhere from 0 – 5km by truck or bike. The cherries are then submerged in water tanks to remove floating cherries which helps maintain the quality of each lot. Next, the cherries are de-pulped with a multi-disc machine to remove the exterior pulp. The coffee then undergoes a double fermentation to breakdown the sticky mucilage remaining on the seed. First, the coffee is fermented dry in containers for 12-18 hours and then for an additional 12-18 hours in a tank of water. Once complete, the coffee is evenly dispersed on drying tables for 24-48 hours to pre-dry before being transferred onto raised beds in the open sun for the remainder of the drying period. The coffee remains here until the ideal moisture content is reached. The coffee is trucked in bags for 50km to the dry mill where it is hulled and rested prior to export.
Despite its small size, Burundi is home to roughly 600,000 – 800,000 coffee-producing families in five different regions. Coffee started as a cash crop here during the time spent as a Belgian colony in the 1930s. Once the country gained independence in 1962, the World Bank assisted the government in allocating resources to plant more coffee and construct washing stations. Coffee production grew until the breakout of the civil war in 1993, that lasted until 2003. This led to the abandonment of coffee farms, and destruction of numerous coffee trees. It also grew increasingly more difficult to transport coffee out of the landlocked country. When the civil war finally ended in 2005 and a new president was elected – more attention was focused on coffee production. Today, Burundi has become a small but significant contributor to the East African coffee market.