Ugandan Rwenzori Natural

Ugandan Rwenzori Natural

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Excellent Grade A coffee from the Rwenzori Mountains in south-western Uganda.

Roast: City (3/7) (Medium)

Tasting Notes: Mixed Fruits, Chocolate and Cherry

Altitude: 1500-1900 MASL

Variety: SL-14 & SL-28
Processing Method: Natural (Sun-dried in Polytunnels for 20-30 days)

Story:

Coffee in Uganda makes up 95% of the country's total exports and as such is the major cash crop. Whilst they are known for their Robusta production in the past, the increasing demand for speciality Arabica beans has both increased the price of coffee and resulted in higher wages for the farmers. As such, there has been a huge incentive to constantly improve the quality of coffee produced in this region.[1]

The upper regions of the Rwenzori mountain range are permanently snow-capped and glaciated. Rivers fed by Rwenzori mountain streams form one of the sources of the Nile and because of this European explorers linked the mountains with the famous "Mountains of the Moon", claimed to be the source of the Nile.[2] This area has been farmed by the Bukonzo tribe for hundreds of years and as such has extremely fertile soils; along with the glacial rivers and two rainy seasons, the mountains provide excellent conditions for growing phenomenal coffee.[1]

This coffee is processed by the Kisinga Coffee Station, just south of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and imported by Omwani Coffee Co, a coffee micro-importer founded in 2018. The story of Kisinga Coffee Station begins in 2010 at Reading University, UK. Johnny Rowland a budding Agronomist studying Tropical Agriculture heard his parents recount inspiring stories from their time spend living and working in rural Uganda. Johnny decided it was something he wanted to experience for himself post-university. Utilising his parents connections, Johnny, joined by his childhood friend James Wilkinson, decided they would travel to the Rwenzori Mountains to try their hand at creating agricultural projects and in the process founded the profit-for-purpose business 'Agri-Evolve'.[49]

Johnny and James began working for a Rural Development centre in Kagando called KARUDEC. Here they were exposed to supporting individual farms in their traditional farming practises. This focus on the individual highlighted the importance of the bigger-picture-potential for Johnny and James, so they set their sights to work and support entire communities of farmers maximising the positive impact that they could bring to the Rwenzoris.

They found a consistent problem presented itself for farmers based in the Rwenzoris. They had coffee, but no access to basic harvesting or processing facilities. This coupled with traders offering often unfair prices for their crops in a quick cash grab, set the scene for a positive actor to enter the region and transform coffee. A perfect opportunity for Johnny and James to work alongside farmers, providing them with an outlet to sell their unprocessed coffee, whilst giving the duo the platform to take ownership of the quality control and improve the reputation of the coffee produced in the Rwenzoris.[49]

The Kisinga Coffee Station was founded in 2016 and started as a collection point for both Dried Ugandan Arabica (DRUGAR) and cherries. Cherries are traditionally processed by the farmers themselves, typically drying them in the sun on tarpaulins. Sourcing this DRUGAR was considerably easier in the beginning than trying to purchase ripe cherries, it turns out old habits do die hard! After continual reinvestment in processing-equipment, demonstration farms and hiring experienced staff. The second-year harvest was a drastic improvement in terms of sourcing unprocessed ripe cherries. This led to considerable improvement in the stations facilities and equipment, allowing them to process more coffee of greater quality.[49]

Over the course of the next 5-years, Agri Evolve rapidly expanded to become the largest employer in the Kisinga Region bringing new economic stability and job opportunities to the community. This growth was driven by an ever increasing reputation for high-quality coffee from the Rwenzori Mountains. With a focus on staff empowerment and education Johnny has managed to build the team to over 80 skilled individuals sourcing and processing coffee from thousands of farmers across the Rwenzori mountains. Introducing Buying Centres in strategic locations across the Rwenzori has been one of the catalysts for growth. Creating a constant physical presence assures farmers that Agri Evolve are going to be there come the harvest.[49]

James now runs Omwani Coffee Company with his experienced team, working with Agri Evolve and other partners in East Africa to connect roasters directly with farmers and producers. Since their founding in 2018, they now have over 100 partner roasters and have supported over 11,000 families involved in coffee processing. They continue to work at origin to ensure transparency and direct relationships with the people producing their coffee.[50]

This coffee is a blend from over 500 contributing farms in the Rwenzori region, with the smallest only 1-2 acres in size. With a smooth body and sweet, strong mouth feel; roasting to a medium level provides a gentle acidity, balanced flavour and shines notes of Mixed Fruits, Chocolate and Cherry. It reminds us of Cherry Liqueurs!

If you would like to learn more about Omwani Coffee Co., you can do so on their website here.