Natural processed coffee in Uganda is often considered some of the lowest grade coffee roasters can purchase. This grade of coffee, called DRUGAR (Dried Ugandan ... Arabica), is often strip picked (mostly under-ripe) and dried on tarps on the ground. In 2015, Kawacom who owns the Sipi Falls washing station in Uganda, set out to change what DRUGAR could be. They started with better picking and sorting practices. That was only the start though, and had to be combined with an immense investment into an infrastructure for meticulous drying and storage. With these two measures, the natural processed lots coming from the Sipi Falls washing station, in partnership with the communities around them, are redefining not just what natural processed coffees from Uganda are, but re-defining the coffee from Uganda as a whole.
Masira is a community located in eastern Uganda on the slopes on Mount Elgon. While Masira is in the region of Sironko, it is bordered just to its north by the community of Sipi which is in the well know region of Kapchorwa. (Sipi is famous for the many beautiful Sipi waterfalls that found throughout that area.) The Masira area, just like Sipi and Kapchorwa to it's north, is one of the highest elevation coffee producing areas in the country, and the producers here are recognized as some of the most quality dedicated as well. This is processed by Atlantic Specialty's sister company, Kawacom, at their Sipi Falls washing station and dry processing site.
Kawacom started in Uganda in 1999, buying parchment and selling mostly Bugisu semi-washed (farmer processed coffee). In 2012, Kawacom completed the build-out of the Sipi Falls washing station on Mount Elgon, alowing them much more control of their quality. Recently, Kawacom has expanded in the region of Kasese in the west of Uganda on the Rwenzori Mountains with their Maliba project. Kawacom also expanded in the Northwest of Uganda with their White Nile project which started in 2017 as washed coffee, but in 2018 offered both washed and natural.
Kawacom started focusing on community specific microlot selections in 2015, and have since taken top places in the AFCA Taste of Harvest in Uganda for their natural, washed, and honey processed coffees on multiple occasions. To produce their top lots, the Sipi Falls washing station selects specific days when they know they can talk and work with the community to get better cherry selection.
Berry, Cocoa, Spice
Of the communities we have bought from, we like this lot of Masira Natural for having saturated natural flavors of berries, but also having a light citrus and spice note in the finish that bring in some more complexity.
On specific days when the cherry selection is optimal the Sipi Falls site will choose to process coffee from specific communities separately. The ripe cherry is brought immediately to raised beds where it is laid out in single layers and further sorted for ripeness. The coffee is constantly turned throughout the day to ensure even drying, and drying will take approximately 3 weeks depending on the weather. The cherry is dried down to approx 10.5% moisture content and then stored in grainpro to protect it. From this point the coffee will be milled and prepared for export.
New in 2019/2020
New Communities and late harvest
The 2019/2020 harvest was late due to rains that affected much of East Africa, including Uganda. While drying coffee in general was hard at the beginning of the season, it was extremely difficult for naturals.
While we carried coffee from the community of Gamatui and created a natural from the 2018/19 harvest - this is the first we set out to specifically work with Kawacom to create a natural from the community of Masira. We also bought washed coffee from this community as well.