Mount Elgon is a massive peak split nearly in two by the border of Uganda and Kenya. The “mountain” itself, now an extinct shield volcano, is more an enormous expanse of successive plateaus that float dramatically above the surrounding valley floor. It is also home to a dense patchwork of farming communities growing some of the best organic coffee in Africa.
Mountain Harvest is a very young and big-thinking group, first established in 2017. The company is dedicated to long-term economic and environmental sustainability for smallholders on Mt. Elgon. These farmers are Uganda’s highest and most diversified coffee growers with incredible quality potential thanks to the climate, soil fertility, and a longstanding culture of land stewardship, but who historically struggle to meet specialty standards by processing coffee in tiny amounts on homemade equipment.
Tasting Notes: Clean & sweet, with some awesome floral and fruity characteristics. Best server at the light to medium roast points. Although not as fruity as the natural processed, one will get some overlying stone fruit (red) tones in this cup accompanied with a little lemony citric. Being a Uganda, the cup will also have some nice darker tone balance, definitely on the chocolaty side with some classic African spice, slight nuttiness at the light roasts. Although it has some spice, this cup is much more delicate than say a Kenyan coffee. Not punchy and overall, a smooth, sweet edged exotic cup.
Roasting Notes: A bit higher chaff and will roast a bit two toned, on par for a nice honey processed. Make sure it gets a little development past first crack to see it shine. Medium roasts are well balanced and what we thought was the best roast point. Works darker as well, retains a little fruity factor combined with a very strong bakers chocolate and smoky spice cup profile.
In an effort to raise the economic standard in remote coffee-growing Elgon communities, Mountain Harvest began as an impact investing project underwritten by Lutheran World Relief (LWR). It has expanded in just a few years to include farmer education and training, central processing infrastructure, storage facilities throughout the region, detailed quality control, and international marketing. As of this year Mountain Harvest works with 850 individual smallholders across 8 communities on Mt. Elgon, with each farm growing between 600-1,000 coffee trees. And their coffee stands up to the best fully washed Uganda arabicas we typically taste all year.
The vast majority of coffee managed by Mountain Harvest is traditionally processed by farmers at home and delivered as parchment. This coffee, however, is a centrally-processed, fully washed microlot from select communities within Mountain Harvest’s farmer network: fresh picked cherry was transported directly from select farms in sealed drums to an experimental processing site constructed by Mountain Harvest near their headquarters in Mbale, where it was depulped, fermented for 24 hours, and dried in larger, carefully-controlled volume on raised beds, all of which is overseen by Mountain Harvest’s processing manager, Ibra Kiganda. Centralized processing is ubiquitous across East Africa but in Uganda it is still rare, where collecting low-quality, often still humid, parchment from smallholders is the norm. While Mountain Harvest has had great success training their farmer base to home-process to excellent standards, the central-processing microlots are an attempt to elevate cup profiles even more through greater control.
Over the course of a full harvest coffees are built into blended containers, single-community lots, experimental centrally-processed lots like this one, and single-delivery microlots for sale. Mountain Harvest’s minimum pricing is 10-30% above local market prices. Unlike other regional buyers who exclusively process centrally or buy lower grade smallholder parchment, Mountain Harvest invests in farmers’ capacity to produce high-specialty cherry or fully-dried parchment coffee within their own resources, helping them maximize their margin when they sell.
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