Uganda is Africa’s second-largest coffee producer, after Ethiopia. While the Ethiopian highlands are the birthplace of Coffea arabica, the equatorial forests of Central and East Africa are home to Coffea canephora, better known as robusta. Robusta became important following an epidemic that struck Brazilian arabica at the end of the 19th century, and now has a flourishing market. It is most commonly used in espresso blends, giving body, bitterness, and an extra dose of caffeine to the final cup, and it represents 85% of the coffee produced in Uganda. At the same time, another species, Coffea liberica, naturally grows in the country.
At an elevation of 1,200 meters, not far from the banks of Lake Victoria, two ancient varieties are still cultivated under shade trees, in the “coffee-banana system”: the robusta variety Nganda, and Kisansa, a local strain of Coffea liberica var. dweverei.
Kisansa plants can produce for several decades and grow to a height of 10 meters. This variety is resistant to all the major diseases. Nganda is smaller and less resistant. It does not fruit all year round, but only at the end of the two rainy seasons, in October and June. 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.
The processing of the beans involves a lengthy ritual. The pulp from the cherries 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 much time 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.
In the local culture, coffee has a strong symbolic value: At every traditional function, be it a house warming or bridal giveaway ceremony, coffee is a must. The coffee cherries are not just toasted, but also eaten fresh, in soups or simply chewed for their stimulating properties.
The Presidium now involves 30 producers, working together to improve the quality of the coffee (from harvest to selection, processing, sun drying, and conservation), facilitate marketing, and gain contractual power with the government and other stakeholders.
The Presidium helps the producers to find buyers in countries where there is a strong demand for their coffee, and is working to build a local market. It also organizes an annual festival dedicated to Ugandan coffee.
Zirobwe (Luwero District), Goma and Nakifuma (Mukono District)
Enrico Meschini, president of the association Caffè Speciali Certificati (CSC)
Tonny Ocana, Coffee Quality Assurance Ltd (CQA)
Presidium supported by
Intesa Sanpaolo Fund for charitable, social and cultural donations
Tel. +256 782666437
Tel. +256 773790091
Tel. +256 752389758 - +256 312275684
Slow Food coordinator
Slow Food Uganda office
Josephine House, Plot 218, Kayunga Road, Mukono – P.O.Box 259, Mukono
Tel. +256 200906662, +256 392178204