Recognizing the importance of developing a cadre of professional cuppers Burundi has accelerated its cupping training efforts, with the assistance of the USAID Burundi Agribusiness Program (BAP) and the East Africa Fine Coffee Association (EAFCA). The Burundi cupping training program initiated by the USAID/BAP program has been implemented in collaboration with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) and has helped to establish a core team of professional cuppers and trainers. Cupping training has been expanded recently with assistance of EAFCA and the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), resulting in the certification of five new cuppers in “Q-Grader” category.

Many of the cuppers trained through these programs have now signed contracts with new enterprises that have emerged since the liberalization of the coffee sector. An immediate and very tangible outcome of these new hires has been the success their firms have shown in coffee competitions, a result of their ability to evaluate and identify the top coffees they produce.  These same cuppers also play an important role in facilitating the selection of daily lots produced and aggregating them into larger lots of similarly high quality coffees and in reinforcing traceability systems by isolating smaller lots originating from particular hillsides and their associated farmer groups.

Cuppers in Burundi play a vital role in assessing coffee quality for the purposes of negotiating direct sales contracts with specialty coffee buyers and in developing trusted relationships with these buyers who depend on particular sensory profiles and levels of quality. Two Burundi cuppers in training have recently been recognized for their accomplishments and have benefitted from a visit with specialty coffee roasters in the United States. While in the US they had the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and to align (calibrate cupping results) with American cuppers in Oregon, Massachusetts and Vermont. These and other Burundi cuppers are now called upon by international roasters to assist them with the evaluation and selection of Burundi coffees for their particular market segments.

An important step for Burundi’s professional cuppers will be the competitive selection of a National Cupping Team that will constitute the “national jury,” working alongside a highly distinguished international jury that has been recruited to judge the upcoming Burundi Prestige Cup (BPC) coffee competition and auction. Success in the BPC will lead in 2012 to Burundi’s hosting of a Cup of Excellence, a competition, globally recognized for identifying the world’s highest quality coffees and its commitment to directly rewarding the growers of its top echelon coffees.

The Burundi coffee regulatory body (ARFIC) also maintains an experienced cupping team many of whom have also completed the USAID/BAP sponsored training. This is especially significant as the ARFIC cuppers are responsible for providing quality certification of all coffees sold and exported from Burundi.