Uganda Coffee: Best Beans, Facts, And More
Lovers of specialty coffee have long ignored Uganda. Why? Because it’s home to Robusta coffee. But, that’s starting to change as the country now increasingly produces high-end Arabica beans. No surprise, given that it lies in the same East African region as famed origins like Kenya and Ethiopia.
So is Uganda’s coffee ready for prime time? I think so. But you can decide for yourself. This article suggests some great Ugandan beans and summarizes what to expect from this emerging, growing region.
|Three Avocados Uganda Bugisu||
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|Lifeboost Africa Medium||
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|RhoadsRoast West Nile Erussi||
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The 3 Best Ugandan Coffee Beans in 2023
In the past few years, Ugandan Arabica coffee has really come into its own, with experts finally recognizing it among the other top specialty coffee beans from Africa. Just ask professional Barista Rambert Sin (1).
Uganda is an underrated coffee region that gets overshadowed by other African countries like Ethiopia and Kenya.
Ugandan coffee is now worthy of making it on your coffee beans bucket list. Here are three great ones to try, no matter what style of coffee you prefer.
Three Avocados prides itself on offering great coffee AND being a great cause. The nonprofit was founded in 2010 to address the global water crisis, starting with Uganda. A full 100% of their net profits are returned to origin to provide clean drinking water.
The Uganda Bugisu Coffee is a single origin, 100% Arabica beans harvested from the slopes of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda.
It’s given a French roast, which yields a rich body and a bold flavor profile of caramel and bittersweet chocolate.
For this one, I’d recommend a brewing method that really showcases the intensity of the flavor, like espresso. It holds up well to milk, making it an ideal basis for a creamy latte.
Like many responsible roasters, the Lifeboost Coffee company has a focus on sustainably sourcing beans, but it also makes sure that the coffees are good for you. As well as being Fair Trade, these beans are USDA certified organic, non-GMO, low acid, and tested free of mycotoxins.
Lifeboost Africa coffee is sourced from the Kawacom washing station which sits on the foothills of Mount Elgon near the Kenyan border. It has the sweet fruit-forward notes of raisin and prunes that you normally get in this area, but with earthy tones of sweet potato. This coffee is also available as a dark roast if you want some more toasty flavors or a light roast that’s perfect for a Chemex brew.
Uganda’s West Nile region sits alongside the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, but don’t be surprised if you find the coffee has similar traits to Kenyan beans. Around the Erussi washing station in the Nebbi district, farmers grow wild Kenyan cultivars that thrive in this often unpredictable climate.
Around 2,000 smallholders use this mill, where they wash process and patio dry their harvest. The resulting coffee has a nougat sweetness, fruity flavors of berries and ripe stonefruit, with a creamy finish. These 100% Arabica beans from RhoadsRoast are Rainforest Alliance Certified and graded AA quality.
All About Uganda Coffee
In this guide, I’ll tell you all about the history of coffee in Uganda. You’ll read about the primary producing regions of Arabica beans and what sort of flavor profiles to expect from them. Get ready to become a Ugandan coffee expert.
A long history of Robusta
Uganda has a long history of producing Robusta coffee, like Cameroon. Robusta grows wild in the lower elevations at the center of the country. Crazy, right? As of 2016, Uganda was Africa’s largest exporter of Robusta, providing 7% of the world’s supply.
Arabica coffee was first introduced in the early 20th century but quickly succumbed to the disease. So, instead, Robusta was cultivated and became the country’s most valuable export. It continues to be economically significant. However, after the coffee-bean price crash in 1987, farmers began reconsidering Arabica. It is harder to grow but fetches higher prices.
The emergence of specialty coffee
The reintroduction of Arabica came with improved agricultural techniques. Another critical factor was the realization that certain country regions had ideal conditions for Arabica production. In the last 40 years, the production of Arabica has grown steadily, and quality has improved. Now serious coffee connoisseurs are beginning to take note.
According to Anneke Fermont of Uganda’s Kyagalanyi Coffee, this is mainly due to foreign intervention in response to increased recognition (2). She says:
[It is] the result of 10 years of training smallholder farmers to improve coffee quality and a lot of attention to detail.
Building wet mills closer to farmers and offering bonuses for better crops has also contributed to ongoing quality improvements. Their beans are mostly graded as “A” and “AA” coffee beans.
Growing regions and flavor profiles
Most coffee production in Uganda occurs on farms less than a hectare in size. It relies on intercropping with other plants to promote soil health and provide natural shade. They are found in three central growing regions: Mount Elgon in the east, the Rwenzori Mountains in the southwest, and West Nile in the northwest. They use two types of bean processing: the natural washing (locally known as wugar) and natural processing (known as drugar).
Thanks to varying conditions around the country, Ugandan coffee has a vast range of flavor profiles.
You’ll taste everything from savory sun-dried tomato to bright citrus and florals.
Coffee farms on the lower slopes of Mount Elgon enjoy mineral-rich soil and ample irrigation. The coffee here is hand-picked because of the steep terrain, and washed processing is the norm. Most of the coffees are organic, but fertilizer is finding increasing use.
Because the coffee here undergoes washed processing, the flavors tend to be smoother and cleaner, with a wine-like acidity reminiscent of some Ethiopian coffees. The most well-known subregion is Bugisu, which produces coffee with fruit or wine tasting notes. Like Gibuzali and Kapchorwa, other subregions have more citrusy coffees, with sweet notes of raisins and figs.
The West Nile area is located at a lower elevation, but the coffee grown here is typically washed processed as Mount Elgon. It’s known for sweet and citrusy flavors.
The Rwenzori Mountains lie along Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and provide fertile, volcanic soil. In this region, natural processing is more common, which gives a different flavor profile. Coffee production in Rwenzori yields brews with a rich, syrupy body and bold fruit and chocolate flavors.
Given its location and prime coffee growing conditions, it’s no surprise that Ugandan coffee is exceptional. The only surprise is that it has taken this long for quality Arabica beans to emerge from the region. But what has arrived is well worth the wait, so pick up a bag of Ugandan coffee beans to try today!
Other origins that are similar to Uganda coffee include nearby African nations, like Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Rwandan coffee. You can also find similar flavor profiles in high-grown Yemeni coffee. All are known for fruity flavors and wine-like acidity.
In 2018, Uganda produced 158.6 million bags of coffee, with each bag consisting of 60 kg of green coffee beans. Of this, 97.2 million bags were Arabica and 61.4 million bags were Robusta.
Ugandan people do drink coffee, but not a lot. Like many former British colonies, tea is the drink of choice. However, a specialty coffee culture is beginning to emerge, especially in the urban centers. This is primarily driven by youth returning from abroad (3).
- The Roaster’s Pack. (2020, July 22). Coffee Origin: Uganda (The Plants, History, Arabica Vs Robusta & Processing). Retrieved from https://theroasterspack.com/blogs/news/origin-deep-dive-uganda
- Boza, K. (2017, August 11). A Roaster’s Guide to Ugandan Specialty Coffee. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2017/08/a-roasters-guide-to-ugandan-specialty-coffee/
- Castellano, N. (2021, January 5). Exploring coffee consumption in Uganda. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/01/exploring-coffee-consumption-in-uganda/