The pearl of African coffee

SCA Score

84.75 - 84.75



Price (USD/kg)

$5.70 USD - $10.15 USD

Key Arabica coffee-growing regions: Bugisu (Mount Elgon, Eastern Uganda), Western Uganda (Mount Rwenzori), West Nile
Typical harvest: October to February (main crop)
Altitude range: 900 m to 1,300 m (Robusta) and 1,500 m to 2,300 m (Arabica)
Main processing method: Fully washed and DRUGAR (Dried Ugandan Arabica)
Grading system: E (Elephant, screen 21), AA (18-21), AB (16-18), PB (12-17) 
Main varieties: SL 14, SL 28, Typica and Kent
Bag size: 60kg
Number of smallholders: Around 1.7 million smallholder family farms
Average smallholder farm size: 0.2 hectares to 2 hectares. Mid-sized farms will have from 8 to 15 hectares. Farms above 20 hectares are considered to be “commercial plantations” and only grow coffee (monoculture)
Arabica/Robusta split: Around 20% is Arabica and 80%, Robusta
Average yields: Low, less than 600 kg/ha for Robusta and 500kg/ha for Arabica
Main port: Mombassa, in Kenya

A nation of smallholders
There are more smallholder coffee farmers in Uganda than in any other producing country. The 1.7 million family farms average one-quarter of a hectare, similar to Kenya, and rely largely on family labour. The majority of such farms produce Robusta, which is native to Uganda. An estimated 300,000 Arabica producers are split mainly between the two extremes of the country, with two-thirds growing coffee on the West by Mount Rwenzori and one-third on the East by Mount Elgon.

Smallholder farms are of the subsistence type and farmers will practice intercropping with bananas, maize, rice and other staples. These farms use mainly family labour and have no access to fertilizers or pesticides due to cost, making such crops passively organic. There are, of course, mid-size farms and even commercial monoculture plantations. We see specialty Arabica coming from many of the mid-size farms, which have more resources to access inputs and training. 

An origin on the rise
Uganda is the 8th largest coffee producing country in the world and the 2nd in Africa behind Ethiopia. It is, however, the biggest exporter of coffee in the continent, sending millions of bags of Robusta to the international market, especially Germany and Italy. Its share of the market is only 3.3% but Ugandan coffee is on the rise as Covid and the shipping crisis made access to Vietnamese Robusta harder. This newly gained visibility is also benefiting Arabica producers.

Nearly 100 of the 112 districts in the country produce coffee but only 20% of all exports are of the Arabica species. Mount Rwenzori’s name was the first to reach roasters in the quality of single-origin lots, but farmers around Mount Elgon have more access to extension services, input suppliers and coffee development projects, putting this region at an advantage for quality-focused processing facilities.
Like in Ethiopia, coffee is treated as a strategic commodity by the Ugandan government, who oversees the quality of all the country’s production before exports. Despite the low prices fetched by Ugandan beans on the commodities exchange (commercial Arabica trades up to 40% below other milds), coffee is vital for the country’s economy and generates 15% of all export earnings. Most exported beans end up in regional blends on supermarket shelves with no traceability.  

Being referred to as the "pearl of Africa" by Winston Churchill in 1908, when the country was still a British colony (it became independent in 1962), we believe Uganda is on the rise to be considered as the pearl of African coffee. Specialty Arabica can taste both delicate and tea-like with a bright citric or sparkling acidity and winey and tropical, with a dry boozy quality, complex acidity and a lingering finish.

Algrano in Uganda
Uganda has one of the most liberalized coffee sectors in Africa with all processing facilities in private hands. Sales are done directly and there is no auction system in place. It has been this way for over 30 years, since the collapse of the last ICA (International Coffee Agreement) in 1989 and the debt crisis of the ’90s, which led to a deregulation of the sector. Before then, the Coffee Marketing Board had a monopoly of the industry, from production to distribution. Today, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) is only responsible for standardising quality control by grading, cupping and classifying all lots prior to shipping.

According to the IGC (International Growth Centre), the Ugandan coffee sector is dominated by two companies that belong to ECOM and Volcafe groups, two large multinational trading houses. Though the development of high-quality Arabica can be associated with the presence of these companies and their requirements for high levels of red cherries on coffee delivery, local companies are competing to increase their presence and market share. Algrano’s partners in Uganda, such as Bros Coffee in Kapchorwa, fall under this last category. We are also developing partnerships with local co-operatives and small exporters trying to show that Ugandan Arabica should be in more roasteries.

Featured producers

  • Mt Elgon Agroforestry Communities Cooperative Enterprise Ltd

    Offered by Mt Elgon Agroforestry Communities Cooperative Enterprise Ltd Verified Seller

    • Uganda
    • Organic, FairTrade
  • Nasaaga Speciality Coffee Foundation

    Offered by Nasaaga Speciality Coffee Foundation Verified Seller

    • Uganda
    • Organic
  • Samples in stock

    Kikobero Coffee Company (KCC) limited

    Offered by Kikobero Coffee Company (KCC) limited Verified Seller

    Organic, Natural, Hygienically Produced.

    • Uganda
    • Organic
  • Bushika Integrated Area Cooperative Enterprise Limited

    Offered by Bushika Integrated Area Cooperative Enterprise Ltd Verified Seller

    Cupping is 80-85%. Outturn is 85-90. Screen is 17

    • Uganda
    • FairTrade