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.
At A Glance:
- FOR DARK ROAST LOVERS: Three Avocados Uganda Bugisu
- FOR LIGHT ROAST FANS: Groundwork Bugisu Sipi Falls
- FOR CONVENIENCE: Molecule Uganda Nespresso Capsules
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.
The 3 Best Ugandan Coffee Beans in 2022
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.
1. Three Avocados Uganda Bugisu – For Dark Roast Lovers
Roast level: Dark
- Tasting notes: Bold, Earthy, Dark Chocolate, Caramel
- Ground or whole bean: Ground
- Best for: Espresso, Moka Pot, French Press
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.
2. Groundwork Sipi Falls – For Light Roast Lovers
Roast level: Light
- Tasting notes: Brown Sugar, Raisins, Cola
- Ground or whole bean: Either
- Best for: Pour Over, Drip Coffee, Cold Brew
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Three Avocados is this light roast from Groundwork. The two make for a fascinating comparison because both coffees come from the Bugisu region, and both are wet-processed. However, the different roasts yield very different flavor profiles.
These beans yield a very clean cup, with bright flavors that are more sweet than acidic. Expect to taste brown sugar, raisins, and cola.
Groundwork has been roasting exceptional coffees for over 30 years from origins around the world. These beans are Rainforest Alliance Certified, organic, and fairly traded.
3. Molecule Uganda Nespresso Capsules – For Nespresso Fans
Roast level: Dark
- Tasting notes: Blueberries, Almond, Chocolate
- Ground or whole bean: Capsule
- Best for: Nespresso Machine
While I always prefer freshly ground coffee to a coffee capsule, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a Nespresso machine. And there’s no doubt that Nespresso trumps Keurig in terms of quality.
These Ugandan capsules from Molecule Coffee feature single-origin, 100% Arabica beans. They’re given a dark roast for extra bold flavor. Unlike the other two coffees on this list, this one originates in western Uganda in the Rwenzori Mtns. Coffee grown here undergoes naturally processing, giving it a subtle sweetness and creamy mouthfeel. Expect a full-bodied and complex flavor of blueberries, almonds, and chocolate.
As a bonus, these capsules are fully compostable. This removes one of the major downsides to capsule coffee: the capsules are difficult to recycle and often end up in landfills.
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 flavour profiles in high-grown Yemeni coffee. All are known for fruity flavours 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 centres. 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/