Kagoma central washing station is located in the Mwumba Commune of Ngozi Province in the north of Burundi. The station serviced 1361 smallholder coffee producers in 2017. They cultivate coffee higher in the hills surrounding the washing station. Kagoma receives cherries from 20 hills or collines nearby. This CoE winning lot of 417kg is made up of contributions of 305 producers. The washing station itself lies lower than the coffee farms at 1488 meters above sea level at a strategic and easily accessible location. Coffee cultivation mostly takes place in the hills from 1500 to 1800 masl. Ngozi and Kayanza provinces are regarded as Burundi’s highest potential coffee growing regions. The red soils are fertile and the regions receive plenty of rainfall during the growing season. The region has a mild climate with average temperatures between 18 and 25°, depending on the altitude.
Greenco has been working very hard with its washing stations, staff and producers to improve the quality of the coffee produced in Ngozi and Kayanza. The washing stations distribute seedlings for tree renovation, as well as fertilizer and other farming inputs. Each washing station is managed by an agronomist. They organize farming training in farmer groups, teach good agricultural practices on farm demo plots and watch over the coffee processing. Next to that, they have also developed programs for economic development together with sustainability organization Kahawatu.
Coffee processing – cherry intake
All washing stations apply the same quality standards for cherry reception and processing. Greenco’s stations are known for their higher quality requirement, with higher cherry payment in turn. Producers who want to sell at stations like Nzove know that their quality has to be the best to be accepted. They will float the cherries in a nearby river and sort on ripeness before taking their load down to the station. At intake, the quality managers will inspect the cherries again through flotation and on cherry sorting tables. All damaged cherries are removed. Because you can see most of the insect damage on the cherries, these steps greatly help reduce the incidence of PTD. The station’s selection manager has to approve each selection before it can move on to intake. Lastly, at the intake point, the accountant registers the sorted weight of the cherries under the producer’s profile. The weighing officer will check the quality one last time by dumping a sample in a bucket of water. Finally, they weigh and dump the approved cherries in the cherry hopper. Each farmer receives a receipt for the weight of the cherries he delivered. Every day lot can be traced back to all producers who contributed part of the lot.
Processing – fermentation
This Kagoma Cup of Excellence winning lot is a classic washed Bourbon. The cherries are poured from the reception tanks into the pulping machine which removes the cherry skin and part of the mucilage on the bean. It also separates the beans by high and low-grade quality. The pulping process will only begin once 1 ton of cherries or more is in the reception tanks. The pulper is the only machine that is used in the processing of our coffee. Every other process is done by hand. The machine can process up to 3 tons of cherries per hour. After pulping, the beans are left in fermentation tanks to ferment for at least 10 to 12 hours (aerobic fermentation). A small sign on the fermentation tank keeps track of each lot. The sign mentions the washing station name, date of cherry purchase, grade of the bean and the time when fermentation began.
When the fermentation is complete, the mucilage water is drained from the tank into the mucilage canal. The beans are referred to as ‘parchment’ at this stage because they still have a thin protective skin. The station workers trample the parchment for 30 minutes in the fermentation tank. This trampling process helps to remove mucilage on the fermented parchment. After this, the parchment is given fresh water to move it into the washing-grading canal, where it is washed.
Processing – washing
In the washing-grading canal, there are two wooden barriers that separate the parchment by density. The higher grade parchment is denser and will sink to the bottom of the canal while the lower grade parchment is less dense and will float. The latter gets drained with the water to the end of the canal. When it reaches the end, this parchment is poured directly into wooden trays and carried to the drying tables. The higher grade, heavier parchment is moved from the washing-grading canal to the soaking tanks. This parchment is given a final wash with fresh water and left to soak for at least 20 hours. The purpose of soaking the parchment is to improve its appearance and to remove the little mucilage that may remain.
Once the parchment has finished soaking, the water is drained until it reaches the same level as the parchment in the tanks. The station workers then trample the parchment again for a few minutes. The parchment is washed one last time with fresh water after this second trampling. The water is then drained and the parchment is carried in nylon bags to the drying tables. Each tray and nylon bag of parchment keeps its traceability tag with all info.
Processing – drying
The parchment is placed on 20m long raised tables to dry under natural sunlight. Usually, each table holds 800kg of parchment. In the peak of the season, the maximum load for a table is 1000kg. Each table has a traceability tag with the lot info. 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 9 to 14 days to dry. During this time it is stirred regularly. The moisture level is carefully monitored and any parchment with visual defects is removed.
Once it has fully dried and the right moisture level is reached, the workers remove the parchment from the drying tables. Both the high and low-grade coffee that is milled in Ngozi has to reach a moisture level of 12.5%. The parchment is then put in bags and taken to the washing station storeroom. When the storeroom is full, the coffee is moved to the dry mill where it is kept until the end of the season when it is finally exported. All coffee is handpicked to remove any defects after milling. The coffee passes an additional screening under UV light to take out any irregularities.