Karyenda: Music (and coffee) worthy of royalty

Karyenda: Music (and coffee) worthy of royalty

The karyenda is a traditional drum in Burundi, but it is not just any drum.  It occupies the highest order of sacred drums in a country that takes its percussion seriously.  It once enjoyed semi-divine status in Burundi, heralding the proclamations of kings at royal ceremonies and marking weddings, harvests and funerals, perhaps even the burial of the Burundian queen who reportedly lies in repose in the shady spot beneath this tree.  Whether in celebration or mourning, the karyenda thrums relentlessly with rhythms that are nothing short of mesmerizing.  We have named our annual single-origin release from Burundi for the karyenda because its coffees make us feel the same way as its drumming: pulsing with energy and marveling at the complexity of what Burundi has to offer.

Our 2017 Karyenda Burundi, in the words of our Green Coffee Logistics Manager and Burundi Buyer J Mlodzinski:

Yandaro Rises to the Top.

For the second year in a row, our Karyenda Burundi comes from the Yandaro coffee washing station (CWS).  It is located in the Kabarore Commune in the heart of the Kayanza Province, home to what are arguably the best coffees in the country.  The Yandaro CWS has been processing coffees since 1986, but in recent years the Greenco team that runs the washing station has elevated its coffees to a level that makes them worthy of the karyenda name.  

Although we loved the coffee we sourced from Yandaro last year, we cast a wide net in our search for year’s Karyenda Burundi as part of our commitment to find the very best coffees Burundi has to offer.  We cupped blindly through dozens of lots from Greenco operations in Gitega, Ngozi and Kayanza, and the Yandaro lots just kept rising to the top.

More than 3,500 coffee growers from 22 different villages scattered across Kabarore and beyond deliver fresh coffee cherry to Yandaro, but traffic doesn’t just flow into the mill there.  Yandaro’s team also pushes out into the hilly terrain that surrounds the washing station to deliver technical assistance in coffee agronomy and train growers on how to meet its high standards for quality.  The results have been evident in the cup.  The extraordinary efforts of the Greenco team and the growers they serve have turned the gifts that nature bestowed on Burundi – fertile soil, high elevations, regular rains, warm days and cool nights –  into impeccably clean and sweet coffee.  

This coffee goes to six.

Greenco’s team at Yandaro sorts its coffee relentlessly, dividing it into six quality tiers, with a relatively small amount reaching the HG/High-Grade tier at the top of the pyramid.  This coffee has been so good over the last two years that we have doubled down on our commitment to the Yandaro CWS: we bought all the HG coffee that Yandaro produced for the U.S. market this year and invested in the future of coffee in Kabarore.

Kahawatu: People’s Coffee.

Our visits this year to the villages surrounding Yandaro confirmed what we suspected: that as good as these coffees are, they can get even better; that coffee can create meaningful economic opportunities there; and that we want to make a long-term commitment to the region.

As a demonstration of that commitment, we are teaming up with Greenco’s Kahawatu Foundation to invest in the communities surrounding the Yandaro WCS. Kahawatu, or People’s Coffee, engages directly with the communities that deliver cherry to the washing station at Yandaro to help develop educational, financial and agronomic programs that directly benefit coffee growers and their families.  A portion of the price we paid for this coffee will be reinvested in renovation that positions growers to boost coffee production and increase coffee income.

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The 2017 edition of our sparkling Karyenda Burundi reminds us of blood orange, white peach and butterscotch.  Buy it here.