For my second featured single origin coffee I chose Burundi Mpanga (the M is silent), from the award-winning Mpanga Washing Station. It’s noticeably sweeter than the previously featured Guatemala Atitlán, with pink grapefruit citrus acidity, notes of date and some savory notes to balance it out quite nicely.
A few notes about the origin
Burundi is a tiny landlocked African nation, just smaller than Maryland, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the south and east and Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, in the African Great Lakes region. And like much of the region Burundi has been the site of violence, political instability and extreme poverty, much of it in the last century stemming from the territorial manipulations of European colonization.
There has been a focused effort in recent years to improve the quality and supporting infrastructure of Burundi’s primary export, coffee, as a means to raise the standard of living for a portion of the 90-percent of the population that works in agriculture. The Mpanga Washing Station exemplifies this effort, with a focus on “quality over quantity” and incentivising farmers to produce coffees of award-winning quality. According to their most recent Facebook post, “Great coffee requires great skill; and great skill is not commodity but the product of well-trained, well-paid, and well-treated workers.”
Choosing this coffee
On the heels of the first feature coffee, the chocolaty, simple Guatemala Atitlán, I aspired to swing to the other end of the spectrum with coffee number two. But I adopted a policy of ultimately making the final decision at the cupping table. That makes the next coffee choice susceptible to momentary preferences, but considering the process — based solely on sensory analysis and not marketing potential — I’m ok with that, for now.
There are two logical steps to take from Guatemala Atitlán: Jump to what some may consider a contrasting coffee, fruity, sweet, lighter bodied. Or, a coffee that subtly pushes the palate a short step in that direction; greeting you with sweet citrus and subtle fruit, but striking a smooth balance with a very approachable savory finish.
Maybe it was the mood I was in that afternoon, but there was no question I leaned toward the latter.
Natalie, my wife, also favored the Burundi Mpanga. I certainly can’t discount the spousal influence.
Pick up a bag and let me know what you think!