I am back in Uganda for the second year, following up on a project we started last year, and visiting the west to see the potential there. We believe that Uganda in the future will play a significant role in the specialty coffee industry. First of all because we now know there are great coffees here. But even more importantly, it is the only other country in Africa, besides Ethiopia, where we can develop a range of naturals on scale at a consistent level. 

Sunset in the Western Region, Uganda

Exploring West Uganda 

Currently I’m in the west, in the Rwenzori mountains, which in the local language translates to “The Mountains of the Moon”. The landscape is stunning. Just a few kilometers away is the Queen Elizabeth National Park. We saw loads of elephants, warthogs, buffaloes, and other game driving between one farming zone to another. Our supplier in this region recently had elephants walking into their plot of land where they have their post harvest production and drying space, just outside the city of Fort Portal.

They are starting the harvest in this area as I write. 

Ugandan smallholders grow mostly SL varieties like SL14 and SL28. Check out the height of those trees!

We began buying coffees from Mt. Elgon in the east, close to the Kenyan border. Our coffees there are harvested November to January. The Rwnenzori mountain range has a different rainy season and an opposite harvest cycle which starts now, in July. This makes it a perfect addition to our portfolio and helps us keep fresh coffees in our offering all year around. There are farms at altitudes above 1800 masl, and a good biodiversity with several different varieties growing. The concept is the same as for the east. We have committed to a program for improved prep of naturals and we may buy small amounts of washed. 

Cupping with the team in the new lab in the west. I am the first guest there as they just opened this lab.

The system in the Western Region

The supplier/exporter is just starting with collection centers for cherry purchase from smallholders. Farmers have about 600 trees on average, each produces approximately 0.5 kg of greens. They work in community groups, where each community has a lead farmer with a demonstration plot where they will train 30-50 farmers in their community. 

The cherries are delivered to a collection centre with an additional premium if they arrive before 17.00 so there is still sunlight enough to sort and float the cherries before purchase. Later in the evening these coffees are picked up by a truck and brought down to a central drying space, called the Yard. The coffee is evaluated there, and if it’s up to standard it will be fermented in barrels or bags up to 36 hours before it’s carefully dried on raised beds, undergoing further sorting. 

Brand new cherry collection centres in the west

Our sourcing strategy in west Uganda

We have prebooked coffees of different preps and of different flavour profiles. The goal is to have the lots separated by collection centre and preparation. The supplier also has an impressive traceability software where every purchase from every farmer is registered, and the purchase comes with a transparency report. We will write more about this and the coffees later. The coffees are due to ship October/November. We just can’t wait to get these coffees presented to you guys. 

They are building a new drying yard for increased capacity, more micro-lots, experiments and higher quality overall