If there’s one thing I’ve learned while being near, around, and in the specialty coffee industry over the past few years, it’s that relationships often play the most vital role in any business’s success.
Not only is this true of the relationships between a shop and its clientele, or a roastery and its wholesale accounts, it is especially true for a coffee buyer and a farmer or cooperative.
I am 99 times more likely to buy from a locally-owned coffee company that direct- or relationship-sources their products directly from the point of origin.
And I’m not the only one. For me (and a lot a lot a lot of people like me), words like “sustainable” and “transparency” and “direct trade” aren’t just buzz words – they’re a set of beliefs and principles by which we choose how we consume.
Today’s coffee is a prime example of the sort of quality that can be had when a roaster knows the coffee they’re buying and the people they’re buying it from.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of Madcap Coffee Company, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Today we’re sipping their Kiriyama Burundi. Feel free to pull up a chair.
This is the third consecutive year that Madcap has purchased coffee from Kiriyama, a coffee-producing group made up of over 3,500 small landowners in Sogestal Kayanza in North Central Burundi.
Burundi is a small country located in the heart of Africa just south of Rwanda. Coffee is the main export out of Burundi – a country where 90% of the citizens rely on farming as their main source of income. As efforts have been made to produce better coffee, sales of specialty grade coffee have skyrocketed over the past 5 years, changing the economy face of the country.
The coffee is made up of Bourbon and Bourbon-derivative varieties, Jackson and Mibirzi. The landowners deliver coffee cherries to the mill where they are du-pulped, naturally fermented for up to 12 hours, washed with clean mountain water for 12-24 hours and then fully soaked in water for 12-18 hours before being dried on raised beds.
The variety and terroir pair together to create a sweet cup, while the meticulous processing yields a clean uniform flavor that we love. The continual standard of quality from Kiryama is apparent with great cup quality year after year.
origin: Kayanza, Burundi
farm: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1750 – 1850 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Jackson, Mibirizi
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Kiriyama Burundi is warm, sweet, and inviting. Like a down comforter or a hug from Nana. Sweet salted caramel dominates the space between the nose and the cup, while heavenly scents of baked goods and candy mingle; floral aromatics of lilac, almonds, toasted marshmallow, gumdrops, and banana bread all entice me to sit back, relax, and idly sip sip sip.
And so I do.
And the flavors up front are every bit as delicious as the aroma. Sweet and savory confection tastes ooze out of the mug and coat the palate with flavors of cane sugar, nougat, licorice, honeysuckle rose, bakers spices, plum wine, dark chocolate ganache, lavender, lilac, black tea, and cinnamon raisin bread. So it has that element of baked goods going for it, but it also has some really nice touches of muted fruits and floral aromatics that tickle the roof of the mouth. This coffee lulls you in, puts you into a deep trance; it’s a comfort coffee. A very, very, very comforting coffee…
Oh, wait. No, it’s not.
All of a sudden, as the cup approaches room temperature, it bursts to life with tongue-tingling, vibrant fruits and sparkling acidity. Raspberry, lemon, blackberry, strawberry, plum, apple, raisin, date, and buttered cranberry orange scone (with a light vanilla icing, of course) burst onto the palate while a bubbly and effervescent lemon-lime acidity (akin to Sprite) dances all over the mouth and washes everything down, leaving behind a very clean, fresh mouthfeel.
Medium body; juicy mouthfeel; lemon-lime acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
Hold on, folks – I’m still coming down from the dizzying heights that I just ascended to. You’ll have to give me a moment or two to collect myself.
The Kiriyama Burundi, from Madcap Coffee Company, is one hell of a cup of coffee. Really and truly. This coffee has all the makings of a classic Burundi coffee – chocolate, berry, flowers -, but it’s also so incredibly dynamic. It takes the prototypical Burundi, then turns the volume up to eleven with huge flavors that pop all over the palate, making the taste buds stand at attention. Furthermore, it’s a very, very well- rounded coffee. The high notes and the low notes and the sparkling acidity all combine to create a memorable experience that stays with you, even an hour or two after finishing the last drop.
Madcap, on its website, suggests that this coffee is delicate and lighter bodied; and while I can certainly see how it could be, I can tell you that the cups I had were not so – they were medium bodied and full flavored and really sat low in the belly. It’s all in how you prepare it, of course.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.