Producer Spotlight: Heza

By Evan Howe

Jun 03, 2023

Earlier this month, Passenger’s green buying team traveled to Burundi to reconnect with our partners at the Long Miles Coffee Project, and visit some of the farming communities that they purchase coffee from in the provinces of Kayanza and Muramvya.

Long Miles Coffee Project
View profile

Founded by an American couple who moved to Burundi in 2011, the Long Miles Coffee Project has earned a strong reputation throughout the international specialty industry as an innovative, farmer-driven producer of top quality Burundian coffees. Noting that coffee farmers in Burundi stood to benefit from improved access to the specialty market and that specialty roasters struggled to source traceable coffees of consistent quality in Burundi, Ben and Kristy Carlson perceived an opportunity to make a positive impact on both fronts. Following the construction of the first Long Miles washing station, Bukeye, in 2013, the team has opened two additional processing sites (Heza and Ninga) in more recent years. Each Long Miles washing station is strategically located in close proximity to thousands of rural coffee farmers who are members of distinct hill communities (the smallest geopolitical unit in Burundi is the colline or “hill”). During the harvest season, each microlot produced by the Long Miles team is kept separated and traceable to the specific hill where it was harvested. For example, all microlots processed at Heza are named after one of the five hills that deliver to the washing station during harvest: Nkonge, Mikuba, Gitwe, Gishubi, and Mutana.

Freshly Pulped Coffee Being Washed at Heza

Passenger is proud to count the Long Miles Coffee Project, and the communities of Burundian coffee farmers that they work closely with, as one of six Foundational Partnerships that form the heart of our sourcing program. For each of these producer partnerships, our goal is the same: to buy as significant a volume as we can each year on an ongoing basis, intentionally prioritizing the purchase of a broad spectrum of available quality grades. Since 2018, Passenger’s primary menu offering from Burundi has been the Heza Foundational lot, named for the Long Miles washing station where the majority of our annual selections are processed.

Green Coffee Buyer, Evan Howe at Heza Washing Station

Our last visit to Burundi was back in early 2020, not long before the onset of international travel restrictions due to COVID 19. Given that three years had passed, it was a particular pleasure to return this Spring and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting new members of the Burundi-based Long Miles leadership team for the first time. Thanks to the support of our generous hosts, Passenger’s team managed to personally visit all three Long Miles washing stations and all twelve Hills that are the current sources of traceable Long Miles microlots.

With the 2023 coffee harvest currently in full swing in Burundi, we are delighted to add two coffees to the Reserve Lot menu that were special selections from the 2022 Long Miles harvest. As with every coffee on Passenger’s menu, these beautiful lots from the collines of Ninga and Mikuba have been kept in pristine condition since their arrival (thanks to the benefit of green coffee preservation in frozen storage). While the majority of Passenger’s annual offerings from Burundi are wet processed (or “washed”), these latest coffees are fine examples of different processing approaches (one is a honey process, and one is a dry or “natural” process). Taken together with the Heza Foundational lot, and Passenger’s other 2022 Reserve Lot selections from Gitwe and Nkonge, these delicious menu additions open up compelling new opportunities to taste and appreciate the hard work of these Burundian farmers, the skill and dedication of the Long Miles team, and the compelling diversity of flavors that coffees from this incredibly beautiful East African nation can offer.

Ninga washing station