The coffee comes to us by way of smallholder producers growing coffee on the northern slopes of Mount Elgon, a massive peak split nearly in two by the border of Uganda and Kenya. The microregion is rife with coffee and is well-served by the Sipi Falls mill, a centralized washing station with the capacity for processing cherry and drying coffee to improve the value to local farmers.
Undermined by historically low prices and the perception as a robusta origin, Uganda instituted a coffee auction in 2018 in an effort to promote high quality and better prices. Uganda is currently Africa’s leading exporter of coffee by volume (Ethiopia produces more, but exports less), and is among the only African nations with consistent annual production volume increases.
Near the Sipi Falls Mill, producers for years had been accustomed to rudimentary home processing techniques. Kawacom, the export company that owns the washing station, has gone to great lengths to prove the added value (and subsequent profit) by contributing their unprocessed cherry to a central mill where washing, fermenting, and drying can be performed consistently with professional oversight. They have also started an example nursery with high quality varieties and provide agronomic support to the local smallholders, many of whom are families led by women.
This particular micro-lot is one of just a small handful of natural coffees produced by the station. Coffees like this, where the fruit is untouched and allowed to sun-dry (called “drugar” in Uganda) retain high amounts of fruit flavor from the increased contact time with the cherry. This lot was floated in water to sort for density and damaged beans prior to drying. The raised beds provide even airflow and the employees of the mill turn the coffee frequently to ensure uniform drying for optimal quality and shelf life.