Ugandan Coffee Culture: Endiro Coffee
By Kati Taylor
As the days get colder, we’re needing our morning cup of coffee more than ever! Although some destinations are famous for their coffee culture (step forward Vietnam and Colombia), others are still hidden gems waiting to be discovered. While Uganda has been a key coffee exporter for many years, it’s only recently started to develop its own scene. Ugandan coffee is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with as local and international interest grows.
We got in touch with Cody Lorance, one of the leading members of Endiro Coffee. Since founding in 2011, the company have opened multiple branches around Uganda. Their aim is to partner with companies around the world to create positive change in the industry - working together towards the common goal of ending child vulnerability and exploitation. Brewing the best cup of coffee in East Africa - and doing good with it - Endiro are helping to put the Ugandan coffee scene on the map. We caught up with the team to talk long-term change, positive impacts and what makes Ugandan coffee so special...
TL: How has the Ugandan coffee scene changed over the last few years?
Ugandan coffee is famous for being forgettable. Although exports of green coffee from this country have long been among the highest from Africa, they have almost always been used as fillers for blends. This has much to do with the fact that the coffee industry here has been mostly characterized by extremely small lot farmers who have been at the mercy of middle-men and large corporations who desire high volumes of cheap coffee. Ugandan coffee has almost never been thought of as high-quality.
When we began working directly with farmers in 2015, the challenge was breaking them out of numerous bad habits which resulted in poor quality coffee. Most of the voices in the industry told us our experiment would not work. However, our first harvest saw farmers producing their first specialty grade coffee - and now in our second harvest we are getting cup qualities that are among the best in the region.
This is causing a stir in the Ugandan coffee industry. Ugandan coffees are now being developed all over the country for quality and not just for cheap volume. For our farmers, this has meant an income increase of 5-10 fold. Even those farmers who are not in our groups are seeing the value of their crops increase as our competitors are forced to change the way they source.
We anticipate that in the next few years, Ugandan coffee will become popular around the world as a single-origin. There is no reason it cannot stand up to a specialty Kenyan, Tanzanian or even Ethiopian. And this should mean a drastic change to the quality of life in coffee villages.
TL: Are there different specialities for different cities? Where are the best places to sample it?
Oddly enough, Ugandans don’t drink coffee very much. Its British roots have left an indelible preference for tea among most. Endiro has actually been a part of a small band of Ugandan coffee brands that have sought to build a local love for coffee. Slowly, it is happening.
Nevertheless, there are two major coffee growing regions (for Arabica coffee), that are becoming internationally known. The Rwenzori mountains in Western Uganda produces some lovely coffees. Good African Coffee is the company best known for bringing those coffees to the market. Endiro is the major player in Eastern Uganda’s Mount Elgon range. We source our coffees at the village level in three different communities there.
As for sampling, your best experience will be in a coffee shop that knows exactly where its coffee is sourced and knows how to serve it up well.
TL: What makes Ugandan coffee special?
What makes Ugandan coffee truly special is that it is almost universally produced by small lot farmers who own between 25 and 200 trees. We like to say that in Uganda, Coffee is People. There is so much about this that is great. We get to know our farmers personally and when we bring their coffee to market it makes a huge impact on their lives.
As for the coffee itself, Ugandan coffees from the Mount Elgon range are fruity, juicy and lightly spiced – like a chocolate-covered mango grown in the spicy soil of an ancient volcano.
TL: What difference has investment into the Ugandan coffee scene made? Why has it become a priority?
Again, the beauty of engaging in coffee villages in Uganda is that the farmers are simple people who are looking to coffee as a way to transcend generational cycles of poverty and hopelessness. Endiro’s direct relationship with specific farming groups bypasses layers of unnecessary bureaucracies, middle men and more so that every coffee bean we sell or brew can make a positive impact on real people. Tours up to the mountain villages of Elgon are breathtaking for those who love natural beauty and will certainly fill the adventurer’s appetite for excitement, but more than anything else, it will create opportunities to connect with people – real people who are not simply caricatures of Africans but mothers and fathers working hard and taking risks through coffee to brew a better world for themselves and their children.
Make it happen
Want to meet the team at Endiro Coffee yourself? There has never been a better time to head to Uganda and gain an insight into its burgeoning coffee culture! Send an enquiry to Kombi Tours or visit our destination pages for more information.