George Howell | Burundi Gitwe Hill, Washed Bourbon


From our friends at George Howell: 

Tasting notes of brown sugar, cherry & blackberry.

Country: Burundi
Region: Kayanza Province
Farm Size: Approximately 0.25 to 1 hectare/farm
Number of Farmers: 1876
Altitude: 6,750 feet
Varietals: French Mission Bourbon
Harvest: May 2019
Rainfall: 40 - 60 inches per year
Production Method:



Small farms deliver ripe cherry to the state-of-art washing station Heza, built into a cliff overlooking the Kibiri rainforest. It was built by American coffee pioneers Ben and Kristy Carlson together with the local farmers. The Bourbon variety grown here may be an ancestor of Kenya’s great SL28, sharing a distinct blackberry note.

The tiny nation of Burundi shares its northern border with Rwanda, and each country covers just over 10,000 square miles –an area similar in size to Massachusetts.

The terrain looks very similar in the two countries, and both reputedly grow the same varieties of coffee tree--Bourbon and Jackson Hybrid—but in our experience the top coffees in each country are distinctly different. The lots from Rwanda possess notes reminiscent of Ethiopian coffees (delicate tea notes, mainly) and certain Burundi coffees share the famous blackberry flavor of the finest Kenya coffees. Gitwe Hill is a case in point. Here is that blackberry, mellower than the great coffees of Kenya, but sweet, very rounded and soft. Is this a case of pure terroir?

Large scale Burundi soil analysis was taken, and the results showed that most of the country has highly acidic soil. The few areas where soil acidity was not high included the around Gitwe and Nkonge.

The farms of Gitwe Hill (Meaning – “Place of Skulls”) are very small and boast diversified crops: tea, onions, vegetables, and fruits. Many have just fifty to a few hundred coffee trees, each of which produce under a pound of coffee per year. The Heza washing station was constructed in 2014 by American owners Ben and Kristy Carson. They have worked for several years with the surrounding farming communities to improve agricultural practices for higher efficiency, sustainability and better quality. The Heza washing station is built into the face of a cliff overlooking the Kibiri rainforest, which borders Rwanda.

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