Comfort and Love From Burundi

Angele Ciza shares what she's working to do for women in coffee in Burundi

Angele Ciza shares what she’s working to do for women in coffee in Burundi

There are over seven billion people in this world at the last count. We cross paths with people every day who never even register on our radar, we’ll never see again, and honestly will never think twice about.

Then, there are those who somehow show up with no effort on our part, we take notice, and they become part of our lives and experiences in a purposeful way. These people seem to present themselves with ease and simplicity – almost like a scheduled event that you knew was on your calendar. That oh-so-weird “Groundhog Day” familiarity sets in.

I love it when this happens.

In our coffee business, we taste new coffees on a regular basis to feature in our line. On the last go-around, I made a request for samples to my coffee importer, based on a few tasting notes of coffees that looked to be intriguing from a taste perspective.

I selected a few coffees from farms in Honduras, Guatemala, and Burundi. Each had its own delicious qualities, but one stood out as different than what I’d tasted before. The coffee from Burundi had a beautiful comfort for some reason. It was pleasing without being overly anything. It had a silky, sweet brown sugar, and a subtle spice.

What I actually noticed about the coffee, and wrote on my tasting notes to myself where the words “comfort” and “love”. Not words you see on the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel at all, but ones I have on my personal flavor wheel. I guess I call it my “feel wheel”. It helps me remember more than just a coffee’s stats, and helps me identify how a coffee actually “feels” to me – beyond what my nose and tongue can figure out.

I chose the coffee, and then followed up with my supplier to find more details of the farm, the grower, or something special about the region that I would share with my customers. Often I know much of these details before I even taste a coffee, but in this case I didn’t.

I became enamored with the story of this coffee from Burundi as I learned about it.
NPR’s Article shares: Meet 4 African Women Who Are Changing The Face Of Coffee
Angele Ciza of Burundi is ahead of her time; she owns the land she farms on. Her 10-hectare (24.7 acre) coffee plantation in the northern part of the country has some 26,000 trees producing Arabica coffee, and she’s also purchased seven washing stations (part of the coffee processing procedure). She’s employing about 100 women, and she also helps pay school fees for the children of her employees.

“We work very, very hard,” says Ciza. Her vision for lifting more people out of poverty in her region is clear. “If you want to develop Burundi, you develop the women,” she says.

According to analysis by the International Trade Centre, on family-owned coffee farms in Africa, about 70% of the maintenance and harvesting work is done by women, but only rarely do women own the land or have financial control. Organizations like the International Women’s Coffee Alliance are trying to change this by, as they put it, “empowering women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives; and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.”

Triangulation Cupping Table

Triangulation Cupping Table

I felt like a proud sister in coffee, and of course the coffee became offered in our Limited Edition lineup.
Last week at this year’s Specialty Coffee Expo, I was taking a class on something no one else except coffee nerds would find interesting – called “Triangulation Cupping” (think of this as a one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other challenge. Lots of sniffing, slurping and spitting of coffee. So sexy.)

Anyway, I started chatting with one of the instructors in the class over our cupping table, and found out that she was part of the Women’s Coffee Alliance. I told her that I was so thrilled that I had just purchased a wonderful coffee from the Kalico cooperative. She immediately said, “From Angele?” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that she knew her by name.

“Yes” I said, and carried on telling her how I so loved learning about her story and her work in coffee. Mad respect to the lady.

“Well, do you know that she’s here?” my instructor said.

I got chills – and yes, the kind that are more than due to an over caffeinated system.
My instructor called me later in the day to let me know that Angele was at the Burundi booth all day, and she had told her about me.

I was so excited to meet her! We looked up the “Coffees of Burundi” booth number and zigged and zagged through the expo floor like a couple of morning commuters racing to get to work on time. I pealed around the corner, and spotted Angele first thing. A tall, beautifully curvy African woman with short black hair and the brightest smile I’ve ever seen. I walk right up to her and graciously introduced myself as Liz from Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee.

Without so much of pause or thought, she smiled from ear to ear as if she’d been waiting for me all day, and gave me a huge big-sisterly hug. It’s that kind of hug that only certain people can give. The kinds of people who hide nothing, give everything, and are truly joyful in every living cell of their body. She oozed an instant welcoming comfort and unlimited amount of love.

She immediately told me about her coffee farm and new goals she’s set for herself, and how she wants to keep making it better. (Pause for another hug). She asked about my coffee, and I showed her the picture of the Kalico coffee packaged in our Lizzy’s bag (pause for another hug). She told me about her hopes to keep making women’s lives better, and keep growing her impact on the business of coffee. (Pause for picture and another hug). I told her I was the actual coffee roaster of her coffee, another not-so-common thing in the more man-dominated sport of coffee roasting. (Big eyes, big smile, and… another hug).

We exchanged more smiles, laughs, and stories, and at least 6 more hugs before I just decided I was being obnoxious hogging all her time.

I left the Burundi booth with a wonderful feeling in my heart. Queue the Oprah moment here….

It was cool to meet her, and to know that she’s doing what she’s doing when it is no way the easiest choice for her in her country. She’s doing it with style, hard work, and a loving energy. Honestly, just a cool lady.

Pause for photo

Pause for photo

I don’t know what it is that’s meant for us together, but I know for a fact she’s now part of my life. In 10 years, something more purposeful will have become of our business relationship, and hopefully our friendship. I’ll look forward to sharing that story with you…..

For now, anyone can enjoy this coffee from Burundi. It boasts sweet brown sugar, spice, butter, and silky body…..oh, and did I mention it feels just like comfort and love?

Purchase: Burundi Kalico Limited Edition Coffee

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