I moved out of Chicago a few years ago, into the coffee desert that is McHenry County. In my travels around the county, I’ve only found a couple shops that serve passably good coffee, and both of them are a half hour away from my house. One that I’ve passed several times but never visited is Daily Projects, in Algonquin. I finally decided to stop in one day a couple weeks ago when, as I was driving past it, I noticed that they had signs in the windows reading that they’re now serving Intelligentsia, Metric Coffee, and Gaslight Coffee. I needed to buy another bag to replenish my home coffee bar so I checked out their stock, then bought a bag of Intelligentsia and a cup to go.

Welcome to the Table. Today we’re cupping the Burundi Karyenda, from Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Intelligentsia’s first lot in their 2018 Karyenda Limited Release lineup is a coffee with a serious pedigree. It represents a day’s harvest from dozens of small-scale family farmers from the village of Matongo in Kayanza Province, and it was processed at the Kinyovu Coffee Washing Station (CWS). Matongo and Kinyovu have become reference points for coffee quality in Burundi’s specialty coffee renaissance: a lot from Matongo and Kinyovu took home the top prize at Burundi’s 2013 Cup of Excellence and a Presidential award. Since then it has reliably delivered some of the sweetest and cleanest coffees in Burundi, an origin known for meticulous sorting and pristine coffees. That may be due in part to the special two-step process the Kinyovu CWS employs for all its coffees.

The first step is the traditional washed process: cherry delivered to Kinyovu is run through a depulper to remove the outer skin from the fruit, exposing the sticky mucilage around the seed. Through a process commonly, if not altogether accurately, known as fermentation, microbes attracted to the sweet mucilage break it down so that it can be easily removed when the coffee is rinsed with water. The traditional washed process ends there. But Kinyovu submerges its coffee again in water after the coffee is rinsed, a soaking process that removes any vestiges of mucilage, eliminates any possible distortions of flavor, and reliably delivers a flavors that are transparent and clearly articulated.

But this coffee wasn’t just designed for extraordinary flavor. It was also designed to empower women. It comes to us from a woman-owned enterprise, embodies the effort of many women in Matongo, and benefits still women more across Burundi.

Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian is the founder and owner of JNP Coffee, which processes, trades and tirelessly promotes coffee from Burundi. Jeanine is a member of the Burundi Chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), and JNP actively supports its mission of using quality coffee as a mechanism to empower nearly 2,000 women in the communities where IWCA member coffees are grown. The price we paid for this coffee includes a premium that JNP delivers to women that enables them to reinvest in their families and farms so that coffee can continue to drive increases in household income.

IWCA, for its part, organizes training sessions on best practices for coffee farming, careful sorting of ripened cherries during harvest and other activities that contribute to coffee quality while also advocating on issues that affect women in the coffee sector.*


region: Karyenda, Burundi
farm: Kinyovu Coffee Washing Station
producer: smallholder farmers
association: N/A
elevation: 1500 – 1800 meters above sea level
varietal: Bourbon
process: fully washed, raised bed dried


The aroma of the Burundi Karyenda is fragrant and floral; perfumed with scents of black tea, orange peel, amaretto, and cherry.

This is a pretty light-bodied coffee, and features a smooth, silky mouthfeel. I am tasting darker fruit notes like black cherry and plum up front, with some touches of vanilla and almond underneath. There is a sweet, juicy mandarin orange acidity that cuts through, and a Darjeeling tea note that weaves its way through the coffee from hot to cold and into a semi-dry finish.

*content courtesy of Jay Mlodzinski, of Intelligentsia Coffee

What were your thoughts of this one? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome! Feel free to enter a comment below.


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