August 13, 2021 6 min read

Uganda Coffee

Coffee in Uganda: A Brief History

Coffee has been a staple crop in Uganda for over a century, and it has played a significant role in the country's economy, culture, and social fabric. From its humble beginnings as a small-scale cash crop, to its emergence as one of Uganda's most important export commodities, coffee has undergone a fascinating evolution that has touched the lives of millions of Ugandans.

The Early Days of Coffee in Uganda

The history of coffee in Uganda dates back to the early 20th century, when the first coffee plantations were established in the country's central region. These plantations were largely owned and operated by British colonialists, who recognized the potential of coffee as a cash crop that could be exported to Europe and other parts of the world.

At first, coffee production in Uganda was small-scale and inefficient, with farmers using rudimentary tools and techniques to cultivate their crops. However, as the demand for coffee grew, and as more and more farmers began to take up coffee farming as a means of livelihood, the industry began to grow and develop.

The Rise of Specialty Coffee in Uganda

In recent years, Uganda has emerged as a leading producer of specialty coffee, with a number of small-scale farmers and cooperatives producing high-quality coffee that is prized by coffee enthusiasts around the world. These farmers and cooperatives have worked to develop direct trade relationships with buyers and roasters, bypassing the traditional middlemen and ensuring that they receive a fair price for their coffee.

The Future of Coffee in Uganda

The future of coffee in Uganda is bright. The country has a number of advantages that make it well-suited to coffee production, including a favorable climate, fertile soil, and a growing population of skilled coffee farmers. With continued investment and support, Uganda has the potential to become one of the world's leading producers of high-quality coffee.

The Continent of Africa

Africa is the second largest continent in the world, with 54 countries that make up 16% of the global population. Due to its size and location on Earth, Africa is home to nine known environmental biomes, ranging from Mediterranean, tropical moist broadleaf forests, jungles, to temperate forests. The equatorial belt cuts straight through the middle of Africa and along this equatorial belt we find the best coffee from Africa.

The Countries in Africa that Grow Coffee

Traditionally, African coffees which take the spotlight are countries that produce exceptional, bold cups like Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.

However, Uganda Coffee, while regularly overlooked by the typical coffee drinker, has been quietly making its debut in the specialty coffee industry.

The Importance of Coffee from Uganda

Coffee makes up 95% of Uganda’s yearly national exports, providing a livelihood for an estimated 20% of the population. Uganda even established the Uganda Coffee Development Authority in 1991 to "promote and oversee the coffee industry by supporting research, promoting production, controlling the quality and improving the marketing of coffee in the country.”

Canephora (Robusta) coffee grows natively in Uganda in the Kampala Forest area and the Lake Victoria Crescent. While Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of Arabica coffee, Uganda is considered the birthplace of Robusta coffee.

The Coffee Farmers and Workers in Uganda

More than three million people work in coffee farms in Uganda, with most of the coffee farms being small farms with only about six acres. Most coffee producers use a sun-dried process for their Robusta coffee but there are new attempts to reintroduce wet processing for their coffee.

Two Girls in Dresses playing in Uganda Coffee Farm

Image Courtesy of Andy Carlton

 “Landscape with girls at Bushenyi”

The Movement from Coffee Robusta to Coffee Arabica in Uganda

The real reason coffee from Uganda has been overlooked can be attributed in part to the International Coffee Organization. While other countries heavily increased their exports and made profits, Uganda was left struggling because its quota was restricted to Arabica coffee.

The Arabica Coffee Tree is Brought into Uganda

Arabica coffee trees were brought into Uganda from Ethiopia and coffee farmers started to make the transition from growing Robusta Coffee to growing Arabica Coffee. Arabica coffee is typically grown on mountains bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bugishu, Uganda’s specialty and most notable Arabica coffee on the market, is from the western slopes of Mount Elgon, and is another typically fruit-toned African coffee, comparable to Kenyan coffee. Mount Elgon is home to East Africa’s oldest volcano, and volcanic soil has always been known to produce a spectacular cup because of the natural nutrients found in the soil.

Arabica coffee is more expensive, it is hand-picked and tends to be smoother, and hence preferred by master roasters such as John Weaver. Robusta coffee is typically seen as lower-grade and yields a much more bitter cup. We do not buy Robusta Coffee.

Robusta coffee still makes up 80% of Ugandan coffee. However, 20% of Ugandan coffee is now Arabica and it holds a special place in the coffee industry.

The Growth of Coffee from Uganda

 “Mount Elgon lies in the eastern reaches of the country, straddling the border with Kenya. Judging by its enormous base, it is thought that Mount Elgon was once the tallest mountain in Africa. The coffee shambas (in East Africa, a cultivated plot of ground; a farm or plantation) extend up and down the cliff faces, making use of natural water gullies and forest cover to extract moisture from the soil. The Sipi Falls are one of the great natural features of the Elgon region where some of our coffee originates, with smallholder farms based between 1,600 and 1,900 meters. It is a steep and difficult terrain to traverse in the rainy seasons, often there are no roads, only dirt tracks that get washed away by the rains.”

What does Weaver's Uganda Coffee Natural Red Coffee taste like?

Renee Brown recently source a Uganda Coffee Natural Red, where each coffee cherry is super red ripe and bursting with flavor. When we opened the sack of coffee, we noticed the green coffee beans have a buttery yellow color and beautiful aroma. John Weaver and our apprentice roasters spent time today roasting this coffee and our entire Roastery smelled delicious.  If you like berry notes in your coffee, this is an amazing coffee. Limited Quantities available of Weaver’s Uganda Coffee Natural Red.

“In the cup, Uganda's washed coffees bring satiny body and ripe stone fruit tones, along with a delicate touch of red berry, lemon and a buttery finish. The best natural coffees feature a lush dark berry jam flavor and mouthfeel, and clean nougat-like mid tones.”

The Recipe for Mandazi a native dish to Uganda

Mandazi, also known as a puff puff, is a dish native to Uganda. It has been popularized as an “African doughnut”, but it is a lot less sweet than American doughnuts. Mandazi is best eaten fresh, but it can be saved and reheated later. Try pairing this treat with a cup of Ugandan coffee or a cup of our Weaver’s Masala Chai.

 Photo of Uganda Dish of Mandazi Puff Puff

The recipe for Mandazi (makes 40)

Recipe adapted from Kiano Moju

Ingredients

  1. 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  2. ½ cup sugar
  3. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  4. 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 1 egg, beaten
  7. 1 13 ½ oz can coconut milk
  8. oil, for frying
  9. Powdered sugar (optional)

How to Make Mandazi

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. Make a well in the center, then use a spatula to mix in the egg and coconut milk until the dough comes together.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 4 portions. Roll out 1 portion of dough into a circle about ÂĽ-inch (6 ml) thick. Cut into 8 triangles. Repeat with the remaining dough portions.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot until it reaches 350ËšF (180ËšC).
  4. Working in batches, fry the mandazi for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  5. (Optional) Sift powdered sugar on top for a little added sweetness!

 References

  1. Coffee Trees https://weaverscoffee.com/blogs/blog/coffee-trees?_pos=2&_sid=fbdfcf5c3&_ss=r
  2. Coffee Production in Uganda https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_production_in_Uganda
  3. Ugandan Coffee: What You Need to Know https://coffeeaffection.com/ugandan-coffee/
  4. Uganda https://www.atlascoffee.com/coffee/uganda/
  5. Uganda Coffee Beans https://espressocoffeeguide.com/gourmet-coffee/arabian-and-african-coffees/uganda-coffee/

Mandazi https://tasty.co/recipe/mandazi