Five Senses feels a strong sense of shared values around excellent quality coffee and social impact with the Long Miles crew. The organisation, attention to detail and positive relationships we saw on the ground were genuinely impressive. The Long Miles Team continue to produce some truly amazing coffees that are improving the lives of coffee growers in these remote areas of Burundi.

Burundi coffee is the Cinderella of the coffee world; often subject to deep misfortunes despite deserving better.

Spread across the steep slopes of the Kayanza Province in northern Burundi, hundreds of smallholder farmers tend Bourbon variety coffee trees in this landlocked East African nation. As one of the poorest countries in the world, the work that Ben & Kristy Carlson and their team have been accomplishing—using great quality coffee to drive agronomy support, price premiums and environmental management—is critical, and a mission that Five Senses is very proud to be part of.

Coffee came to Burundi under colonial rule through the Belgians after WWI in the 1920s. The Belgians began to force every farmer to cultivate at least fifty coffee trees in 1933. Many of the trees farmed in Burundi today are original to this era of forced farming. After colonial rule ended in 1962, coffee production was privatized but rarely was anything besides commodity coffee produced. Since then, the sector went back under government control only to re-emerge into the private sector in 1991.

One of the poorest countries in the world, the small East African country of Burundi is home to close to 800,000 coffee farmers. As a critical cash crop, the premiums paid for coffee and support provided by Long Miles Coffee have a significant impact on the hundreds of farming families they work with. For the last sixty years, Burundi’s rich and unique coffees have often been lost in a sea of instant and grocery store blends.

But now, grown and crafted with care, Burundi coffee is emerging to find its place in the specialty limelight.

From far off, the Burundian countryside is a vast expanse of green-carpeted rolling hills. Each hill is a distinct geopolitical unit with its own farming tapestry; a patchwork of banana trees, cassava coffee, tea and corn. There are no typical-looking coffee estates in Burundi, instead, every hill is home to between sixty and 140 smallholding coffee-farming families. For most coffee farmers in Burundi, coffee is their family’s only cash crop. The average farmer who works with Long Miles has 115 coffee trees. Each coffee-producing hill in Burundi has an individual micro-climate, soil structure and altitude. Long Miles traces micro-lots by tracking every farming family on every hill, and documenting each day that they deliver.

Every farmer has a story, and Long Miles does their best to capture not only data about coffee production but family and home life as well.

Producing coffee in this part of Africa isn’t always easy. Harvest season often means navigating challenges like countrywide fuel shortages, water shortages, political instabilities, constantly changing government regulations or export delays. Despite all of these challenges, we’ve found Burundi coffees to be well worth the effort, and we are hopeful that you will too.

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