Most coffee grown in Uganda (80%) is of the varietal varietal Robusta (Coffea canephora var. robusta), with the other 20% comprising Arabica varietals Typica, SL 14, SL 28 and Kent. Also grown in Uganda is the Arabica cultivar Bugishu / Bugisu (Coffea arabica var. bugishu), which is grown near Sipi Falls on the western slopes of Mt. Elgon, one of Uganda’s largest mountains.
Region: Uganda (Bugishu)
Growing Altitude: 1,300 – 2,200 meters
Variety: Arabica (Typica, SL 14, SL 28, Kent)
Harvest Period: October – February
Milling Process: Fully Washed
Aroma: Woodsy, Orange Zest
Flavour: Orange, Fruity, Pekoe Tea
Generally, the coffee growing regions are divided into:
- West Nile (Okoro – bordering on Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan in the North West)
- Northern Region (Lira, Gulu)
- Eastern (Mbale, Bugisu – bordering on Kenya)
- Central & Southwest (Jinja, Mukono, Kampala, Masaka – by Lake Victoria)
- Western Region (Kasese, Mbarara – also bordering Democratic Republic of Congo)
The western regions produce much of the coffees Arabicas, which grow well in the higher elevations including Mount Rwenzori (which actually gets snow at its peaks). These are naturally processed (“drugars”).
Uganda Coffee Tasting Notes
A good brewed cup of Bugisu (or “Bugishu”) coffee exhibits cupping notes similar to the desirably winey acidity of a fine East African coffee, with sweet chocolate flavor and rich texture. Generally speaking, the lower complexity and lighter lighter body of Ugandan coffees makes them generally less distinguished than the finer coffees of neighboring Zimbabwe, Tanzania, or Kenya.
The Robustas from the Lake Victoria basin are well suited to the clay-rich soils, and benefit from some high elevations in the region. They’re able to develop higher acidity than lower-altitude grown Robustas, making them a decent cup.
Green Coffee Growing
The harvest season for Arabica green coffees is October through February, and all year for the Robusta crop (peaking in November through February). After harvesting, the coffees are either natural washed (known locally as “wugars”) or naturally processed (known locally as “drugars”).
Interestingly, wild Robusta coffee trees can be found in Uganda due to their suitability to the climate. Theoretically indigenous to Uganda, Robusta is the largest exported coffee varietal in Uganda, which boasts the second largest export volume of the varietal in the world.
Ugandan coffees are graded either “A” (15/16 screen – equal to Colombian “Exelso” size) or “AA” (17/18 screen – equal to Colombian “Supremo” size).
Uganda Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips
For tips on brewing the perfect cup of Uganda coffee see the Espresso Coffee Guide’s section on Coffee Brewing.