I had no clue where Burundi was until I looked it up this morning. It’s among the top ten poorest countries in the world. Its land area is just over 10,000 sq. mi., making it smaller than any U.S. States except West Virginia and Rhode Island. They won independence from Belgium in 1962 and things haven’t gotten better. Daily, they deal with civil war, an AIDS crisis, and the usual complement of poverty-induced diseases and problems. In short, it’s not a big tourist destination. But maybe it should be, if only for the coffee. I was talking shop with a nice young lady at Stone Creek Coffee on Wednesday and we seemed to be getting along great. I thought about asking her out for coffee but never got the nerve. Something about not wanting to take advantage of the patron-server situation. At any rate, while I was enjoying my espresso doppio ristretto, she popped over and gave me a sample pack of beans from Burundi and told me she thought I might enjoy it. I was a bit dumbfounded by all this and after I tried (quite unsuccessfully) to thank her for the gift, she just smiled and went back to wiping down the counter. After the confusion wore off, I read the description of the coffee.
This coffee was grown in the Kayanza region in northwestern Burundi, just south of the Rwandan border. More than 3500 smallholder farms deliver their crops to this washing station where the cherries are fully washed and then sun dried on raised drying tables called African Beds. This unique coffee has a bright flavor with hints of pineapple and cedar.
Given the description, I anticipated seeing a bag full of medium roasted beans, or maybe an assortment of roasts. Imagine my surprise when I found dark, shiny beans and a HUGE dark coffee aroma in the bag. Dark roast coffee is usually subdued and mellow with flavors of leather, English tobacco, wood smoke, etc. Dark roasted coffee almost never produces “bright” flavors and fruity notes. The geek in me was highly suspicious – “Fruity notes come from esters. Pineapple flavors come from butyl esters! Butyl esters are formed from butyric acid. Coffee doesn’t produce butyric acid! It produces cholorogenic acid. Butyric acid is made by Bacillus subtilis and in glands in the stomachs of most animals. Not by Coffea arabica! There’s no way there’s pineapple flavor in this!” But the coffee-lover in me decided to suspend disbelief for a second and enjoy the coffee. And I’m glad I did.
This was, quite possibly, the best all-around coffee ever. The first thing that attracted my attention was the overwhelming mellow coffee aroma. That wonderful smell of walking down the coffee aisle in the grocery store. The flavor was as solid as the aroma. This coffee was indeed bright just as the package said. If I hadn’t ground the dark, shiny beans myself, I would not have believed this was dark roasted coffee. This was a most remarkable cup – at the same time mellow and exciting, well-rounded and yet highly polished. Towards the end of the cup, the coffee took on a more fruity, tropical taste – just as the package said. I think maybe this coffee is magic or something because I’ve never had a non-espresso coffee that phased through so many layers of flavor in one cup before. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend trying Stone Creek’s Burundi coffee.