The Queen of Coffee, and her Legacy

By: Susan Heller Evenson

In 2012, Angele Ciza and Consolata, two friends (and experienced businesswomen), decided to go into the coffee business together. They purchased seven washing stations that had been part of the old government-run Sogestal program, with the idea of working in close partnership with growers so they could process and export Burundi’s best coffees. After a few years, Angele and Consolate parted ways, and Angele took over running Kahawa Link Company (Kalico, for short). The pride and satisfaction Angele and Alex, her son, take in the company comes through in their excitement for forging friendships with their buyers.

The washing stations are in the Kirundo, Ngozi, and Muyinga Provinces in North-Eastern Burundi, each serving 1,000-3,000 small-scale farmers who grow primarily the bourbon varietal. They wet ferment the coffee for 12-18 hours, then do a one-hour soak, wash and pre-dry, and sort before drying the coffee on raised beds. To improve the quality of the coffee produced, Angele and Alex knew they needed to start with the education of the producers, so they began with outreach to ensure best practices from nurseries to picking. As the quality and value of the coffee increases, Kalico investing in additional training, environmental protection, inputs, micro-credit, micro-insurance, and social infrastructures in partnership with the producer organizations that deliver to their washing stations.

Sadly, Angele passed away in August 2022 due to a health-related issue. As her family expressed, Angele’s “remarkable achievements for Burundian society, her immense love and commitment for the development of rural communities are the greatest legacy we all inherit from her. She will always be engraved in the worldwide success that Kalico has experienced and will keep on experiencing throughout the years as a result of her assiduous work and determination.” Anyone fortunate enough to have met Angele Ciza will never forget her.

2023 Harvest Updates

Our last stop on our June 2023 Great Lakes tour was to visit our dear friends at Kalico, co-founded by coffee pioneer Angele Ciza, who sadly passed away this past year but left a strong family coffee legacy.

One of Angele’s sons, Alexandre, has been heavily involved in Kalico the past several years and is now running the company, which includes 7 large washing stations in 3 of Burundi’s 18 provinces. Organic coffee in Burundi is virtually non-existent, but Kalico will be RFA certified later this year.

In addition to the washing stations, Kalico has ‘Shamba,’ coffee from their own coffee farm plots. And this year, for the first time, they are trying very small amounts of 3 experimental processes. Kalico is also doing some honey and natural process at Hasura Washing station, so they are continuing to innovate while also push the quality for their fully washed, specialty-grade lots.

Like Brazil and Rwanda, Burundi has a biennial harvest, with a  ‘high year’ and a ‘low year.’ 2023 is in the ‘low year’ cycle, and was particularly low this year due to climate change. In additional, while coffee often flowers in September, some are seeing flowering in December, indicating that perhaps some areas in Burundi will see a fly crop later this year.

We had the opportunity to visit CPC dry mill, one of two large dry mills in Bujumbura. During high season they will have up to 600 hand sorters in their facility. Kalico uses hand sorting, followed by UV light sorting for its specialty grade coffee.

We also had the opportunity to visit Disyn Berna, the female-owned enterprise that employs six disabled women to sew and sell their handicrafts, and are also the women responsible for sewing the stunning “Kalico Mama” bag art.

For the 2023 arrivals, we’re offering three delicious washed lots: a Standard Arabica coffee, a community lot, and Women-Produced Kalico Mama. These coffees display notes of black tea, brown sugar, baking spice, berry, and other fruits, with moderate acidity and medium body.

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Offering List