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Uganda 2024: Origin Trip | Part 1

Uganda 2024: Origin Trip | Part 1

After arriving the day before at 10:55am in Entebbe, the group met for the first time eager to see what the week had in store before we headed to Kampala. Our journey to our starting destination allowed us our first glimpse at the culture and scenery within Uganda before we arrived and rested for the week ahead.

Day 1: Kampala to Mbale

We began with us heading out at 7:30am, greeted with the bus that would be our partial home for the next week with today’s goal to visit to the massive dry mills of Olam and Kyagalanyi, before heading towards Mount Elgon for our stay in Mbale.
The dry mills gave true insight to the commercial scale of coffee, which could be seen in silos that towered overhead, holding tens of thousands of tons in green coffee.

As we were toured around the mill being shown the huge processing facilities and massive warehouses filled with sacks of green coffee, our guides described some interesting insights into the initiatives and ideas that these plants were doing to support the individual farms they sourced from; the various ways in which they sustain the communities and the environment surrounding them, and enabling secure transparency through the coffee they bought in.

Ending each tour, we were also treated to our first set of cuppings not only trying different processes for speciality grade coffee, but also getting to cup some of the different robusta they had to offer as well - offering a firsthand experience of the diverse flavours borne from the region's unique coffee profiles.

From there we began the journey toward Mbale at the base of Mt Elgon. Stopping along the way in Jinja, the source of the Nile, added a touch of historical significance to the journey. Watching the Nile River emerge from Lake Victoria was a magnificent way to admire and take in the first moments of our trip in this spectacular country. It truly helped embody the rich tapestry of Ugandan geography and history.

As the night fell, we reached our destination below the Wanale ridge. The changing hues of the sky illuminated the landscape, creating a captivating backdrop for Mount Elgon.

It had been a long first day for sure, and had been a lot to take in, but it was only the beginning of our weeklong tour of Eastern Uganda, and we had a lot more to see.

Day 2: Mountain Harvest

We kicked off the day at 7am with an enlightening visit to a dry bed operation run by Mountain Harvest. Seeing all the cherries on raised beds in the early Ugandan sun was really something to behold. After an inspiring introduction to the operation, they led us through the beds and explained the classifying system that they used with the Natural and Honey processed lots we could see. We were also shown pulpers and the way they redistribute any waste into a huge fertilizer plot for their regenerative farming initiative, where they restore soil to a suitable condition for coffee production.

After being shown around the dry bed site, we headed across to Mountain Harvest’s warehouse compound and lab. Exhibiting a marvellous warehouse unit with humidity and temperature controls to adjust for the perfect storage for the green bean, and the sorters meticulously picking through sacks of coffee looking for anything with that would be considered a defect. This was followed by two rounds of cupping, one from Mountain Harvest’s own processing facility, and another hosted by a representative from a local coffee farmer-based community organisation - Nasaage Speciality Coffee Foundation (NASCOF), which we would visit later in the day. Our excellent host and the managing director from Mountain Harvest, Kenneth, had spoken in depth on the level of protocols in their work and the passion behind what they do. You could see the pride and passion as Kenneth stood and showed us the various awards they had won for their coffee, and you could experience the impact in what we cupped on the table from both their own coffee and NASCOF. The cupping sessions that day truly highlighted some of the brightest and best in Ugandan coffee.

Before heading further up the mountain we went to a local restaurant for lunch where we would have two things that were staples to be had with every meal on our trip; Matooke and Ground Nut Sauce. Matooke is a firm mash of plantain that was savoury and filling, either steamed in the leaves or smoked, and Ground Nut Sauce was a very savoury peanut sauce that had an earthy satay flavour. They were both delicious and great accompaniments for the many stews and grilled dishes that were common on our journey.

Chasing the outline as we headed up the Wanale Ridge, to visit the NASCOF processing facility. As the bus entered through the gates, I could hear the music begin as we drove in, where we were greeted by a spectacular welcome from the farmers where they sang and danced us over to a nearby barn. Once inside we were presented with an earnest speech from the leading representatives in their community, who told us about the love and passion that goes into what they do. It was an incredibly heartwarming experience, and you could feel the amount of pride they had to show off their hard work. We were then taken around their storage facility and shown their own smaller scale, but equally impressive dry mill, which was sorting and processing the green bean, before we headed off back down the mountain.

As we were driving away from NASCOF, with more singing and dancing to say goodbye, I thought how it all really brought home how much coffee farming means to these communities and what it can do to enable them to thrive.

That evening as we gathered in a restaurant in the heart of Mbale, and were treated to a dance group performing the local dances native to Uganda all evening. This day was also highlighted especially as it was my birthday, and I was surprised during the evening with a cake and a birthday song which meant I had to get up and get involved as well. A magnificent birthday and truly inspiring day.

Attend our Ugandan cupping event on Thursday 28th March 2024 in our Canterbury store. To book tickets, click here.

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