Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian, the founder of JNP Coffees, is without a doubt one of the most influential individuals in Burundi coffee today. Raised in Bujumbura, Jeanine would go on to earn an MBA from Northwestern University’s prestigious Kellogg School, cycle through corporate America, and eventually reconnect with her birth country by founding Burundi Friends International, a not-for-profit that funds educational and economic empowerment programs for rural Burundians, which is now in its 13th year.
After a few years marketing Burundi coffees stateside for friends and family, Jeanine realized she had every reason to lead the business, and JNP Coffees was born. JNP Coffee is highly focused on women’s empowerment, and along with a few local women’s rights advocates, formulated the Burundi chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance. The network of IWCA farmer members in Burundi is now more than 2,000, whose coffee is differentiated by membership, marketed for its traceability and impact, and which generates end-of-year premiums for all involved. In fact, the IWCA value chain has been so impactful that JNP has created additional programs to expand their farmer base and generate premiums beyond the IWCA registered growers.
Of all the Burundi coffee we evaluated this year, this coffee was the brightest. If zesty/fruity acidity is something you love in coffee, this is the lot for you! Full of citric tones, lemon and lime. Very complex cup, hits you after that first sip: there’s a good amount of sugar browning in the flavor, from caramel to brown sugar the sweetness is rich, almost molasses-like. We picked up some dried fruit: raisin, dried mango, dates, and prunes. There’s some black or oolong tea-type flavors, a uniquely Burundian flavor note in coffee, and plenty of hints at spice and florality including rose, clove, and chamomile.
Roasting Notes: An easy coffee to roast, beautiful processing with medium to low chaff. We thought it best at a light roast point, still a bit splotchy in its color, amazingly sweet, crisp and defined. Hints of herbal spice than will go away if you go slightly darker, but add to the wonderful depth of the cup. Light to dark, you are in for a tasty treat!
This is one of those additional programs. A local leader of a producer group in Karuzi Province decided to seek JNP’s partnership. Karuzi is located in central Burundi and historically lesser known for its coffee compared to neighboring Ngozi and Kayanza provinces, considered to be Burundi’s top quality producers. The Karuzi group had heard of JNP’s assistance programs and post-harvest premiums and wanted to know how to get involved. Due to exactly this type of demand, JNP has established the “Dushime” program (dushime in Kirundi translates to “let’s be thankful”), which provides quality consulting, lot selection, marketing to JNP’s buyer community, and end-of-year premiums for participating groups not otherwise members of the IWCA.
This coffee, created from only one distinct processing lot from this harvest, has been titled Ubuto, which translates to “young”. The name is a reflection of the brand-new partnership between JNP and Karuzi Province, as well as the literal age of the coffee trees themselves, which among this group are only a few harvests old, and distinctly youthful in the cup: this microlot is toasty sweet and fruited, like graham crackers and jam, with an acidic clarity and delicate floral layer that indicates many years of bright, assertive coffee ahead.
Fully washed processing by the Ubuto group is as detailed as anywhere in Burundi where the best coffees are produced. Cherry is floated for density and visible defects prior to depulping and fermentation. After fermentation is complete the wet parchment is sorted by density in concrete washing channels. Drying takes place at first under shade, and then in open air with the parchment piled into pyramids, which are flattened and re-shaped each day as a form of incremental air exposure to slowly and evenly dry the coffee and lock in the final moisture.