I believe this is the first single origin coffee from Uganda that I have come across, thanks to Intent Coffee Roasting in Portland, OR. This sample, from the Kabum farm/cooperative in the Mt. Elgon area of Uganda, is one of the coffees I watched get roasted by roaster/owner/über-mensch Mark Johnson when I visited on May 4, 2015. Mark said this coffee is his best-seller and you can buy it directly from him for $13/bag.
Interestingly, Uganda produces a lot of coffee, but not much of it makes it into our cups here in the USA. Uganda lies to the east of Kenya with Rwanda and Tanzania making up its southern border. In addition to being in a part of Africa that has been plagued by political unrest for a long time, Uganda is land-locked, so getting coffee out of Uganda into neighboring countries for export to the specialty market is particularly difficult. You can’t just have coffee sitting on trucks all day, waiting to get into neighboring Kenya.
That being said, there are some 300,000 small coffee farms in Uganda and, according to Sweet Maria’s dossier on Ugandan coffee, 95% of the country’s exports are coffee. Much of it tends to be low-grade or Robusta, which grows indigenously in Uganda. In fact, some of the rarest examples of wild coffee anywhere in the world can be found in the rainforests of Uganda.
Considering the challenges, it’s notable for Mark to be roasting what I found to be a good single origin Arabica coffee from Uganda, and even more astounding that it has become his mainstay, flagship coffee! This coffee comes from Kabum, a farm/cooperative near Mt. Elgon, which sits close to the eastern border of Uganda, on the other side of the mountain from Kenya.
Unlike coffees from Kenya, however, this is not an acid/fruit/complexity bomb and it turned out to be a pretty straightforward and pleasant cup. Knowing his market well, Mark roasts this coffee a bit darker than the other coffees I sampled from Intent. A lot of his customers are using basic coffee machines at home and aren’t necessarily making pourovers or using all the accessories people like us (well, me, for sure!) have occupying our kitchens! Darker roast profiles tend to appeal to people using standard coffee drippers because the lower water temperature can make a thin, pretty weak cup out of a lighter roast that would be awesome as a pourover.
I’d say this coffee was roasted to just shy of second crack. A few of my beans had some oils pushing up to the surface and it was obviously a developed (but far from incinerated) roast. I got a lot of nuts and chocolate in the aroma. This coffee has a medium body with a lingering aftertaste that I initially thought reminded me of bubblegum, like Juicy Fruit that had been chewed on for a while, but then it shaped up to be more melon than “bubblegum.” I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the flavor compounds injected into the pink stuff are similar to what can be found in cantaloupe and honeydew melons. Who knows?
There’s a lot of sweetness in this coffee and it’s pretty straightforward. It’s a good, easy drinker and consistent through a range of temperatures. You won’t find yourself writing essays about the complexity of this coffee but that’s OK. Who doesn’t like a nice, sweet, easy-drinking coffee to get the day started?
I also experimented with this coffee as a single origin espresso and it was nice! Not real bright, solid chocolate and nuts and a lot of sweetness, good mouthfeel and body. I picked up a lot of salted pretzel character in this as espresso, too, which I enjoyed. Very nice straight espresso performer, not sure how it’d perform with milk, but I like espresso the way God intended it to be enjoyed! LOL