Kisansa Coffee

Ark of taste
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After Ethiopia, Uganda is Africa’s second-largest coffee producer. The country’s forests are the homeland of Coffea canephora, better known as ‘Robusta,’ named for its resistance to disease. It is most commonly used in espresso blends, giving body, bitterness and an extra dose of caffeine to the final cup. Traditionally, two native Robusta varieties have been cultivated in Uganda: Kisansa and Nganga. Kisansa coffee plants can keep producing for several decades, growing up to 10 meters tall, and are resistant to the major plant diseases. Even though the government has pushed for the replacement of traditional varieties with more productive commercial hybrids, many growers have preferred to keep the indigenous varieties. Its cultivation is spread throughout the towns of Zirobwe (Luwero District), Goma and Nakifuma (Mukono District) in Uganda. Along the shores of Lake Victoria, at altitudes between 900 and 1,200 meters above sea level, this ancient Robusta variety is cultivated under shade trees, particularly bananas (the ‘coffee-banana system’ has become common cultivation practice throughout the region). The processing of the beans involves a lengthy ritual. The pulp from the fruit is removed using two stones. After this initial phase, the beans are pre-toasted in an iron pan. The resulting green coffee beans are then ready for the final roasting inside a terracotta pot, constantly moved around to stop them spending too long in contact with the sides. The terracotta allows the heat to spread gradually, preventing the beans from burning. After grinding the roasted beans in a mortar, the coffee powder is infused in water, producing a beverage with an intense and balanced aroma, characterized by herbaceous notes. Before the arrival of British colonists, coffee was consumed in various other ways in Uganda: as a fruit, as an ingredient in soups, or chewed for its stimulant properties. Coffee continues to have a strong symbolic value in the local culture. Owning coffee plants helps to increase one’s status, and it is said that a bride who marries a coffee owner will be stable for life. Today, this variety is at risk of being lost with increased pressure to cultivate commercial hybrids. It is not marketed separately from other varieties, so it is not well known for its individual characteristics.

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