Coffee Farming Facts in Uganda


World’s best coffees are produced in East Africa which are mainly known for their co-ops, which are often formed at some washing stations and some known wet mills. This is the birthplace of coffee beans.

In Uganda Coffee is the most important cash crop throughout all the years, making it the top export business earner since the 1980s. It has also specialized in the production of 2 types of Coffee, which is the Arabica which is grown at high altitudes that are ranging between 1,300-2,300m above sea level and meanwhile the Robusta coffee is grown at lower altitudes ranging from 900-1,500m above sea level making Ugandan coffee to possess the best qualities due to a high altitude, soils, and farming systems that cannot be easily found on elsewhere in the world. The Arabica coffee only grows in a high altitude area of South Eastern Uganda as well as in South Western Uganda.

Coffee is grown in five areas: the Central, Western, South-Western, Northern, and Eastern regions. The last one comprises the Busoga regions (Robusta) and the Mountain Elgon region (Arabica). The Northern Region comprises the Mid-North (Robusta) and North-Western region (Arabica & Robusta). The South-western and Western regions produce both Robusta and Arabica. For Robusta, we have two varieties which is known as the Nganda and Erecta. High-yielding Clonal Robusta Coffee, which yields almost four times as much as traditional varieties, are being planted to replace old and diseased trees. For Arabica, there are a number of varieties, SL 28 (high altitude), SL 14 (medium-altitude), KP 423 (medium), and the traditional Nyasaland grown in the Mountain Elgon region, Rwenzori Region, as well on the mountains of Zeu in Zombo District.

Coffee is produced by an estimated 1.7 million small-plot coffee farmers from 108 districts. The altitude ranges from 800 to 1,400 meters above sea level for Robusta and 2,300 to 6,000 metres above sea level for Arabica. The high altitude, especially for Ugandan Robusta, makes it very unique and characterised by intrinsic quality characteristics/attributes. Sustainable and specialty coffees are being sold to niche markets at high premiums compared to conventional grades.

2020 see’s Uganda as Africa’s largest coffee exporter, overtaking Ethiopia as the continent’s largest coffee producer.

Robusta Coffee Production

Robusta coffee, which is made from the plant coffee canephora, mainly grows in the Lake Victoria Basin. It is known for low acidity and high bitterness in relation to coffee made from coffee arabica. Arabica beans, which is ranging between 200–800 meters above sea level tend to grow in higher altitudes than those of Robusta. Its production is also more of a robust crop because it generates great obtainable product per area than an arabica does and the costs of harvesting its coffee beans are considerably lower than arabica. Another advantage of it, the Robusta strain of the plant is more likely relative resilience to wilts and plant diseases, which makes it a less risky crop to rely on. Due to its high bitterness, it is examined to be less popular on the global market in parallel to arabica.

However, despite having an abundant crop that is resilient to disease, Robusta coffee is particularly adaptable to climate change. Studies project that a 2-degree Celsius increase in temperature can severely reduce the amount of coffee canephora that can grow in Uganda.

While Arabica was introduced at the beginning of the 1900’s, Robusta coffee is indigenous to the country and has been a part of Ugandan life forcenturies. Wild Robusta coffee variety still grows today in Uganda’s rain forests and was thought to be one of the unusual examples of naturally occurring coffee trees anywhere in the world.

Mostly, Robusta is sun-dried, although in this recent years there have been moderate attempts to reintroduce the wet-processing. These kinds of interventions are on-going today, which is under the aegis of the UCDA. In the early 1960’s the Uganda coffee industry produced close to 25,000 tons of good quality pulped and washed Robusta but this segment vanished entirely during the monopoly years, together with the plantation sector that supported it. Today, there’s an estimation of about 500,000 small farms of varying sizes that grow at least some coffee.

Uganda’s Robusta is native that had two types which are grown namely the ‘Nganda’ and ‘Erecta’. An extensive clonal replanting program combines high yielding clones of both varieties that are vegetative propagated and self-sterile. The progenies are true to type and could retain their parental characteristics, wherein, they are high yielding, could mature faster, and produce a bigger bean with improved liquor characteristics. They also tend to have resistance to Coffee Leaf Rust Disease.

Uganda Robusta had an intrinsic quality that always been excellent and the on-going replanting program which is locally developed in a clonal material that is likely to result in a general revival of the country’s ability to supply goods, and neutral liquoring coffee. Robusta in Uganda is grown at relatively high altitudes, some as high as 1,500 meters, making these coffees especially attractive for the fast-growing espresso industry. However, the bulk of the Robusta can be used in the production of instant coffees and which is as inexpensive fillers for blends.



Arabica Coffee Production

The Arabica coffee plant doesn’t like those harsh climates and it likes humidity but can’t handle frost. It prefers temperatures ranging between 15°C to 24°C or equivalent to (59°F to 75°F) and likes to be grown in the shady parts. 

It’s mainly grown at elevations of about 1,900+ feet which is (600+ meters) above sea level. Coffee bean likes to be grown on those hillsides and matures at the estimation of 7 years of age.

These plant usually grows to around 9 to 12 meters in the wild. But when grown for commercial use, it can reach only about 5 meters tall but it is usually kept at a range of 2 meters to help with the harvesting.

These beans (which are actually known as seeds) are found inside of the berries that grow on those shrub-like plants. These berries are usually harvested when they are “cherry” or their color is deep-red/dark-purple, but there are usually 2 beans in each berry.

More like into blueberries, its fruit of the arabica coffee plant doesn’t ripen at the same time, and that’s when the berries are best picked by hand. If the berries are harvested before they are fully ripe it will result in an inferior coffee.

If the arabica coffee beans are removed from the berries which there is also a so-called “parchment coat” and a “silver skin” that has to be removed too.

Uganda’s 3 Arabica-Growing Regions

Uganda has always been famous for its Robusta coffee, an indigenous species that still grows wild in the country’s rainforests. Yet you’ll also find Arabica growing in three regions: Mount Elgon in the east, the Rwenzori Mountains in the southwest, and West Nile in the northwest. Each origin is unique, with different coffee profiles and production methods.

Rwenzori Mountains

Rwenzori which is habitually known as the “mountains of the moon”, lies southwest of Uganda’s border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Coffee in Rwenzori is grown all over the slopes of the mountains at the estimation of 1,500 to 2,300 m.a.s.l. Volcanic, in which the soil is rich with nitrogen that creates a terroir that is well-suited to coffee. Also, Uganda produces perfectly a wet-processed Arabica, with effectively all grown from those villagers on a small plot. Coffees that are marketed as ‘Wugar’ (Washed Uganda Arabica) or ‘Drugar’ (Dry Uganda Arabica) are grown on mountains encircling the Democratic Republic of Congo, alongside the border of western Uganda’s. The greater demanded Bugisu is from the Kenya border within the western slopes of Mount Elgon. Bugisu is usually a rougher version of Kenya with excellent potential that is typically winy, fruit-toned African coffee.

The most common process here is called Natural processing, but you may also find washed processing upon discovering it.

Mount Elgon

On the eastern border of Kenya lies Mount Elgon, and is also known as East Africa’s oldest volcano. Coffee farms perch on its sides which is shaded by forests and gaining their vital moisture from a steep water gully.  Meanwhile, the harvest season is June to December and it is at lower altitudes; and at a higher altitude, it doesn’t start until the month of July and but will last until February.

Cherries are typically hand-picked on a specialty farm before being washed processed. Although transporting the coffee may be difficult as it has a steep terrain – which in some parts, sure-footed donkeys will be the best way to safely get from the farm until to the mill.

On the western slopes of Mount Elgon which can be found in the Bugisu region that is particularly well-known for its fruity, and wine-like coffees. Yet more it still tastes sweet, just like citrusy coffees with notes of raisins and figs, which are from Gibuzali and Kapchorwa washing stations.

West Nile

The West Nile region lies in northwestern Uganda, with farms estimating from 1,300 and 1,600 m.a.s.l. Indigenous trees, such as the banyan tree, are mainly used as shade on multi-generational farms. 

In this region, Coffees are typically washed processed which known for their citrus profiles.

Arabica Coffee in Uganda also Includes:

Bugisu coffee. This coffee is from the Bugisu region on the slopes of Mount Elgon in the Kapchorwa district, Uganda. The Bugisu region is named after the Bugisu people which are commonly indigenous to this area. The coffee project “The Sipi Falls” was named after a trio of majestic waterfalls, which is established in the year 1999 to strengthen the quality of coffee production in that region and also to create a sustainable income for farmers.

Tasting Notes: A nice clean and smooth, fuller-bodied cup. Mostly darker toned and along the chocolaty side. This cup is surprisingly clean especially for the price – a good single-origin drinker but also works nicely as a blend base.

Roasting Notes: Good from medium to dark that is easy to roast. Medium roasts are delicate and a little sweeter, a good cup to sip on all day. Dark roast gets strong and thick with edgy chocolate and smoky tones – kind of like a super clean Sumatra.The hard Arabica beans originating from Bugisu are a real treasure for that dark roast. In the eastern region of Uganda which is Bugisu, wherein the coffee there is grown at moderately high elevations of (1,300 to 2,600 meters) on the slopes of Mount Elgon. Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa sharing borders with Kenya, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What’s So Special About Ugandan Coffee?

Uganda is the best location for coffee growing. In these past decades, the armed conflict has hurt this industry – mainly in the producing region of the West Nile in the year ‘90s. But, the country boasts richly of fertile land, and with volcanic soil into the east and west, and heavy rainfall. Most parts of the country had two harvests: from April to June and another is from October to February.

In most places, farms could be stood up to’ 2,300 m.a.s.l., with greater resulting cooler temperatures leading to more complex coffees. Small farms are to tend to be often less than half a size of a hectare. Intercropping can provide good shade wherein the coffee can grow – also, another element that creates cooler temperatures and effectively healthier plants.

The most common process is called the Washed processing, although you may also find some natural processed coffees as well. Natural processed coffees can range from low-quality, as well as from defective beans to high-quality, until specialty-grade ones.



Click one of our contacts below to chat on WhatsApp