We are going to learn more about the history of coffee in Uganda, the flavors that exist, and a few facts about the coffee. Without any further ado, let’s start by learning about the history of Ugandan coffee.
Whether you are a true coffee enthusiast or not, we can all agree on one thing coffee will always have an impact on you. On most occasions, when a good quality coffee is well blended and perfectly brewed, you will always want to get another cup after another one.
Some people would prefer 100% unbleached coffee. This is where you get real coffee addicts, as most of this non-blended coffee usually contains more caffeine and has a stronger taste compared to its blended counterpart.
Anyway, these are just some of the qualities of the different coffees we have in our markets today. As you all know, coffee that is grown in different regions usually has different characteristics. This comes in terms of quality, taste, and appearance, among other things. In this article, we are going to look at Ugandan coffee.
The History of Coffee in Uganda
When it comes to coffee growing, Uganda is not that well known as a coffee-producing country compared to other East African countries like Kenya and Ethiopia. However, it has established its name as one of the leading producers of Robusta coffee. This is a naturally occurring coffee in the country. This is the type that contains a little more caffeine and has a bitter taste compared to the Arabica plants.
Well, we all know that Arabica coffee beans make up almost 80% of specialty coffee, right? This is why the people of Uganda have started to show an interest and put more effort into ensuring the Arabica plants are also thriving in the region. In recent years, Uganda has been able to produce good quality Arabica coffee, but only on a small scale. The main type of coffee being cultivated, however, is still Robusta as the ratio is 4:1.
Coffee is said to have been introduced in Uganda around the early twentieth century. During the early stages of growth, the Arabica coffee struggled and eventually got destroyed when plant disease affected the area. However, the Robusta coffee showed resilience against the disease and managed to pull through. This is how it became the dominant type of coffee in the region, as farmers began seeing its potential.
It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that Uganda realized its biggest coffee boom economically. By this time, Brazil had been among the most prominent coffee producers. However, there was a big frost that destroyed almost all the coffee plantations in Brazil.
This happened during a time when the rest of the world had a huge demand for coffee. Guess what, Uganda had the product to meet the demand. This is how coffee became one of the main cash crops in Uganda and a valuable export that helped boost their economy then. Uganda’s economy continued to flourish until 1987 when there was a global drop in coffee prices.
Since then, the production of Arabica coffee has been on the rise, thanks to modern technology. The use of improved agricultural techniques has facilitated the growth of Arabica coffee in the region. The plants are now able to be well protected against diseases and grown under good climatic conditions on high altitude areas in the west and east borders. And this, so far, has been the story of coffee in Uganda. Since then, coffee has remained one of the biggest exports of the country to date.
Well, now that you know about the history of coffee in Uganda, what more is there about Ugandan coffee? Well, here are a few things worth knowing about Ugandan coffee.
Coffee is one of the two main cash crops featured in the national symbol of Uganda, which is why coffee in Uganda is important to the country and the Ugandan people.
When you ask someone out there to name the five top coffee-producing nations in the world, Uganda would certainly not be on the list. But did you know that Uganda produces the third-best coffee in the world? This is, of course, after Kenya and Ethiopia. But it is quite surprising to see Uganda beat countries like Columbia, Guatemala, and Honduras on this list. Well, it might not be the best quality coffee out there, but the country remains a powerhouse when it comes to coffee production in Africa.
Did you know that Uganda exports the most coffee in Uganda? Yes, that’s right. In Uganda, exports are usually in 60kg bags. In 2021, Uganda was blessed with a great harvest and was able to export 6.26 million coffee bags. This was much higher than what Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda could each manage. This is why Uganda is quite a destination when it comes to the amount of coffee it produces, even if it’s not of top-notch quality.
Don’t Drink the Coffee
This has to be the most interesting fact. Do you know that Ugandans don’t drink their coffee? Not that they don’t drink it at all, but the population there doesn’t drink as much coffee. Have you ever wondered why Ethiopia is said to be the leading producer of coffee in Africa, yet Uganda exports more?
This is simply because Ethiopia has a higher domestic consumption of coffee than Uganda. This means they drink more coffee. In 2020, reports said that Ethiopia consumed about 3.2 million 60-kilo bags of coffee while Uganda consumed less than 250,000 bags. This is the reason why Uganda exports more coffee than Ethiopia.
In other coffee-producing countries, there are usually large tracts of land specifically for coffee growing, right? This is not the case in Uganda. More than 90% of the coffee in Uganda is on a small scale, averaging only 5 acres.
Being a smallholder farmer crop, coffee is often grown together with other foods like beans, bananas, and vegetables, among others. At the end of it all, coffee doesn’t stand out from the rest.
Coffee is a cash crop in Uganda, therefore, people grow it and sell it as soon as it matures for quick cash. This is why they always put less focus on the quality of coffee since it isn’t something they consume regularly. It’s only for cash.
A finished, well-roasted Ugandan coffee can cost up to 33 times more than what the farmer initially sold it for. To be fair, the farmers usually earn less because they don’t put much effort into improving the quality of the beans. The blending and processing can also improve the taste and flavor, the price will go higher.
If you are a coffee addict who travels from place to place trying to have a taste of the area’s best flavors, you need to taste Ugandan coffee as well. Whether Arabica or Robusta, the origin of the beans also determines coffee’s flavors due to climate and geographic features. Within the two, you can now find a variety of flavors.
Well, Robusta coffee is inferior between the two available types. However, it still makes a good and honest drink filled with a full-bodied earthly flavor with a bit of nutty touch. The robusta coffee alongside the lake basin usually carries high acidity, so it makes a more satisfying drink. You can’t say the same about the beans grown in lower altitude areas. When it comes to caffeine levels, Robusta coffee contains as much as Arabica has. This can come in handy when you require that extra energy burst, right?
However, for Arabica fans, ask for Bugishu or Bugisu when you are in Uganda. These are the best beans in the region. Ugandan beans in the highlands in Coffee arabica var. Bugisu, which is located in the Sipi Falls region around Mount Elgon. The bean is special by its sweet and chocolatey aroma with a subtle taste. You can also find some new varieties of specialty Arabica coffee like honey-washed and be mesmerized by the flavor as you enjoy your beverage.
Kenyan Vs Ugandan Coffee, Which is Better?
When people ask this kind of question, it becomes a bit tough to answer because there is no definite answer to this question. As you may know, Kenya and Uganda are two different countries, and both of them most certainly have different climatic conditions. This alone can influence the types of crops grown in these regions, in this case, coffee.
In Uganda, we’ve seen that the bean is mostly Robusta. This is because of the suitable climatic conditions in Uganda that make it thrive and even become resistant to diseases. This was when the people grew both Robusta and Arabica in the region, and after the disease, only Robusta thrived while Arabica struggled and eventually couldn’t do well.
This left Robusta coffee to be the more dominant type as the conditions there favored its growth. This is why Uganda will always remain among the leading producers of Robusta coffee. As mentioned before, the coffee has an earthly flavor with a chocolatey taste.
On the other hand, Kenya is famous for producing some of the best Arabica beans in the world. The beans are mainly in highland areas with good climatic conditions to facilitate their growth. Also, due to both agricultural and technological advancements in Kenya, they can grow the beans in special conditions with proper care from planting to harvesting. This way, they can improve the quality of the beans and therefore produce some of the best coffee and blends that impress all over the world.
Both countries produce great coffee in their own capacity. If you are looking to enjoy a good cup of Robusta coffee, Uganda would be your go-to place. On the other hand, if you are a fan of Arabica, Kenya has some of the best.
Coffee will always remain one of the most consumed beverages in the world. There are a good number of countries in the production and processing of coffee. This is why you will always find different varieties of coffee in the stores. It is always wrong to think that coffee produced in a specific country will all taste the same. You also need to know about the blends as well. Even in its small capacity, Uganda still produces some of the best coffee. The next time you are visiting, don’t forget to ask for a cup of their best coffee. While you are at it, try to find out more about it. Don’t just drink your coffee, know your coffee as well.