Uganda is a nation that borders Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda. Though the country lacks the renound reputation for quality coffee that many of its near-neighbours enjoy, coffee accounts for a considerable chunk of Ugandan exports, and millions of ordinary Ugandans depend on the coffee industry.
Until the early 1990s, the industry was entirely controlled by the state – but that was totally reversed, and since then things have been entirely privatised. Quality control for exports is governed by a body named the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), whose role it is to grade all of the coffee that’s leaving the country.
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What coffees are produced in Uganda?
Uganda among the world’s foremost producers of Robusta (the hardier sort of coffee that are easier to cultivate, and account much of the world’s less expensive coffee production). That said, you’ll also find Arabica farms in some of the country’s highlands – most notably in the areas surrounding Mt. Elgon and Mt Rwenzori (which ancient peoples knew as the Mountains of the Moon, the source of the Nile).
Of the two varieties, Robusta has been around by far the longer; it’s indigenous to the country, and has been inextricable from Ugandan culture as far back as history recalls. The method for processing such coffee has been honed over the years, with a dry-processed technique being traditionally favoured. But the introduction of modern techniques have tried to introduce the wet-processing found elsewhere – with mixed results.
Ugandan Robusta comes in two forms, named ‘Nganda’ and ‘Erecta’, both which have been the subject of a cloning programme. The result is a crop that’s taller, hardier, faster-growing, and which produces a much larger bean. While much of these coffees are suitable for espresso, the majority find their way into cheap instant coffee, and as padding for blends.
Arabica, on the other hand, is a different matter. It’s grown almost exclusively by smallholders on the mountains of both the country’s eastern and western borders, who conduct their work beneath shade trees (like banana trees). They’re left to grow naturally, and flower twice a year. In the area surrounding Mount Elgon, the locals have a long tradition of coffee farming, and transport their product via donkey.
Where in Uganda is coffee grown?
The Arabica that comes from the country’s west, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, is marketed as Wugar. That which comes from the eastern border with Kenya, however, is the more prestigious. It’s named Buhisu, after the people that grow it, and it shares much in common with the Arabica produced in Kenya (which is just a short trip over the border).
Indeed, most Ugandan Arabica tends to exhibit the qualities we’ve come to expect from those produced in East Africa. The washed varieties boast the same distinctive acidity, nutty warmth, balanced texture and fruity sweetness as those produced in Ethiopia and Kenya. Given time, Uganda has the potential to recover its former glory – we’re already seeing evidence of that revival in the coffees you’ll find listed here.
If You Like Ugandan Coffee, Give These A Try…
If you love the flavours of coffee from Uganda and you’d like to explore coffees from other similar growing regions, try the following: