Price $5.10 per pound
Bag Weight 132.48 lbs
Flavor Profile Raw honey, toasted oats, prune
Women farmers organized around Mountain Harvest
1600 – 2200 masl
Sipi and Makali communities, Mt. Elgon, Uganda
Fully washed and dried on raised beds
October - February
Mountain Harvest's coffee has become one of our most popular Ugandas in a very short time. For the past 2 years the cupping team at Mountain Harvest consistently identified superb qualities from women farmers in the Sipi and Makali communities, which this year is being sold as a microlot for the very first time. The coffee has the raisin and chocolatey sweetness of the greater region but with an increased tart and floral character, with flavors of nectarine, apple juice and hibiscus.
Mountain Harvest is a very progressive producer group in Uganda, investing heavily in their farmers’ equity in the final product, as well as constantly diversifying their cup profiles available to buyers. This, in our experience, is about as good a coffee anyone can find in East Africa that is entirely processed by smallholders themselves at the community level.
Mount Elgon and Mountain Harvest
Mount Elgon is a massive peak split nearly in two by the border of Uganda and Kenya. The “mountain” itself, now an extinct shield volcano, is more an enormous expanse of successive plateaus that float dramatically above the surrounding valley floor. It is also home to a dense patchwork of farming communities growing some of the best organic coffee in Africa.
Mountain Harvest is a very young and big-thinking group, first established in 2017. The company is dedicated to long-term economic and environmental sustainability for smallholders on Mt. Elgon. These farmers are Uganda’s highest and most diversified coffee growers with incredible quality potential thanks to the climate, soil fertility, and a longstanding culture of land stewardship. Historically, however, farmers on the mountain have struggled to meet specialty standards by processing coffee themselves, most often in tiny amounts on homemade equipment and with little direction.
In an effort to raise the economic standard in remote coffee-growing Elgon communities, Mountain Harvest began as an impact investing project underwritten by Lutheran World Relief (LWR). It has expanded in just a few years to include farmer education and training, central processing infrastructure, storage facilities throughout the region, detailed quality control, and international marketing. As of this year Mountain Harvest works with 850 individual smallholders across 8 communities on Mt. Elgon, with each farm growing between 600-1,000 coffee trees. Their coffee stands up to the best fully washed Ugandas arabicas we typically taste all year.
The Supply Chain
Mountain Harvest organizes growers by local community. They administer farm management and processing training to calibrate all producers to high specialty standards, and they expedite parchment to their centralized location in Mbale, at the foot of Mt. Elgon. In Mbale, each delivery is cupped against a strict and detailed qualitative and physical grading system and allocated accordingly. A typical smallholder picks coffee daily during harvest, depulps on hand-cranked or generator-powered depulpers, sometimes shared between neighboring households, and ferments overnight in small plastic tubs or nylon sacks. Coffee is then rinsed clean and dried in a thin layer on ground tarps, or, increasingly, raised screens to improve air circulation.
Makali and Sipi are 2 of 8 community zones in which Mountain Harvest works. Women make up 34% of farmers regionally across Mt. Elgon, but in Sipi in particular, on the northern side of the mountain, women make up over 60% of the community. In Sipi there is a local women-led Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) that provides financial literacy training, model farming, and beekeeping. They also have ambitious coffee quality dreams—one of the reasons their members’ qualities caught the attention of Mountain Harvest's QC team. Naturally the women there were very keen to have their coffee marketed on its own, and we certainly felt the quality was deserving of the spotlight.
Makali is far from Sipi, on the mountain's southern slopes, but the strength of this community and solidarity with Mountain Harvest has earned them pilot programs in centralized, community-led processing, as well as a women's coffee program, modeled after that of Sipi. As part of their wholistic farmer investment in Makali, Mountain Harvest distributes beans for cultivation and nitrogen fixation, avocado and macadamia tree seedlings, and honey bee hives. Mountain Harveset has most recently established a microfinance program that gives farmers here access to formal bank accounts—previously denied to them without membership in a larger finance association.
Combined, these two communities offer a delicious microlot unique to Uganda—being both smallholder-produced and from 100% women farmers.