Sharing Cupping Knowledge in Burundi

By: Lisa Conway, CQI Operations Director


Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), recently teamed up on the Trade Capacity Building Program in Burundi to offer coffee cupper training for a select group of quality-assurance professionals. This program, funded by the World Bank, aims to improve Burundi’s export performance, facilitate the access of products to international and regional markets, and ensure compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.

An eager group of 18 students attended CQI’s Pre-Q cupper training course, taught by Q Instructor Luz Stella Artajo, Ph.D. This training was held at the Autorité de Régulation de la Filière Café (ARFIC) training lab in Bujumbura. In the last few months, CQI and ARFIC, with support from UNIDO and the World Bank, have started work on the improvement of the capacity and infrastructure of this central coffee laboratory to meet demand for quality-assurance services and training.

Most of the Pre-Q students were from the government sector (mainly from ARFIC), with a few representing private enterprises, and most of the students hold positions related to coffee analysis, quality control, and laboratory management. CQI’s Pre-Q course is a comprehensive training in cupping coffee for the purposes of scoring and identifying individual lots against the Specialty Coffee Association’s physical and sensory criteria for specialty-grade arabica coffee.

“These coffee professionals had the opportunity to participate in a course using international standards,” remarks instructor Luz Stella. “Now they have useful tools that will help them assess coffees based on internationally recognized standards for cup quality and provide objective feedback on flavor nuances and defects.”

Luz Stella adds that the training brought very important educational knowledge to the producing country’s coffee sector. “It is a special moment for the Burundian coffee industry,” she says. “People involved in coffee analysis have been in contact for many years with different buyers that are looking for differentiated coffees, and now they have another perspective of how their coffees are seen and appreciated worldwide.”

Ephrem Sebetigita, a Burundi coffee expert and CQI’s coordinator for training projects in the country, is pleased to see quality-improvement initiatives being revived with the support of the government's new strategic coffee plan as well as the Burundi Coffee Sector Competitiveness Project. Ephrem relates that, “Coffee quality objectives—improving infrastructure, equipment, and human resources—are being revived. Our foreign exchange inflows are highly dependent on coffee exports (80 percent), and the prioritization of coffee is not surprising. All groups in our coffee value chain, from the government to cooperatives and the private sector, are now interested in training in coffee quality because they are seeing the connection between tasting skills, competitions (such as Cup of Excellence and Taste of Harvest), and income from green coffee sales.”

Ephrem says that Burundi cooperatives such as COCOCA / HORAMAMA Union (with 39 coffee washing station members, a milling plant, and three labs) have already benefited from CQI’s basic cupping training and focus on coffee laboratory development. He adds that the company KPC TDM (Kayanza Premium Coffee Trust Dry Mill) constructed a coffee dry mill and laboratory this year, and SUCCAM (Société d’Usinage et de Commercialisation du Café du Mumirwa), which owns 11 coffee washing stations, has plans to build a hulling plant for 2019.

Ephrem concludes that, “We all know that no quality selections are possible without tasting. This is an opportunity for Burundi’s young people to obtain new jobs in the coffee sector. It is a challenge for these young people to take back the plantations of their parents.”

While CQI’s Q Grader training is not new to Burundi, it has been several years since any advances were made to train and certify new Q Arabica Graders in the country. The 2009 Q Grader trainings, with the support of development funds, helped launch the production of specialty coffees from Burundi into international markets. These original Burundi Q Graders have mostly been employed in the private sector. Today’s UNIDO-endorsed Pre-Q trainings with ARFIC, in conjunction with a national strategic plan, reinforce the development of green grading, sensory, and olfactory skills, build individuals’ flavor and cup profile evaluation talents, and will help prepare the next generation of students for CQI Q Grader certification: A full Q Grader Course is now being planned for Bujumbura in 2019.

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