Flavor Profile Cranberry, pineapple, and fresh tamarind
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This is a traditional natural coffee from smallholder producers surrounding the Sironko community washing station on Mount Elgon, Uganda, and organized around our exporter partner Mountain Harvest. It is certified organic.
The flavor profile is sweet and fruit-forward, with notes of strawberry, caramel, vanilla, and plum.
Our roasters found the coffee fairly predictable to roast and noted the coffee’s high density may require a little extra heat.
When brewed our baristas noted using a finer grind with a lower dose produced great pour-overs. Similarly, lower-dosed espressos with longer extractions seemed to bring out the best in these beans.
Taste Analysis by Chris Kornman
Championing Ugandan coffees requires significantly less effort today than it did just a few years ago. This incredible selection from our supply partners at Mountain Harvest, and their network of growers around Mt. Elgon and the Sironko community washing station, really just makes the case all by itself (although Charlie Habegger’s stratospheric cupping scores don’t hurt its chances)!
We first cupped samples back in April, and this lot was immediately clear as a shining star. Our early notes included hints of hibiscus, blackberry, and a gentle creaminess that really improved as the cup cooled. On arrival, in August the approval team here was impressed by the coffee’s jamminess, with candy-like sweetness and deep grape and plum flavors.
A natural Uganda some years ago was one of Doris’ first coffee loves, and her roasting approach for beans like this really brings out something special; we noted ripe sweetened cranberry, pineapple, and fresh tamarind in addition to hints of rose and lilac. Subsequent pour-over brews brought out notes of strawberry lemonade, ripened kumquat, and sweet vanilla, and shots of espresso dialed up some of the citrus notes, sweet spice, and even a hint of savoriness we found pleasant and complementary to the ripe fruit flavors.
Overall, this is an uncomplicated coffee in all the best ways. It’s immediately delicious, impressively fruity, and easy to brew and enjoy. There are only a few boxes in this CJ-exclusive offering, and they probably won’t last very long. If you’re looking for a sweet, ripened-berry flavored coffee from Africa this season, you should consider picking up a box or two of these special beans.
Source Analysis by Charlie Habegger
Mountain Harvest’s coffee has become one of our most popular Ugandas in a very short time. “Sironko” is the name of a central processing project managed by Mountain Harvest’s quality team, which this year produced a stellar full natural coffee from select smallholder farmers in their network. The coffee has the raisin and chocolatey sweetness of the greater region but with an intense tart structure to it and flavors of cherry, cranberry, and tangy pineapple.
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 the 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.
Sironko Station and its Projects
With a few years under their belt, Mountain Harvest has begun contributing central processing infrastructure in certain areas of Mt. Elgon where they work, training farmers to oversee their own production in small communities with specific goals. The Sironko station is centralized to the Yilwanako, Mayiyi and Buginyanya communities on Mt. Elgon’s northern slopes and this year produced a variety of honey, natural, and anaerobically fermented experimental lots. Everything is overseen by Ibrahim Kiganda, one of Mountain Harvest’s quality managers, who maintains strict protocols for participating farmers in order to ensure the best quality outcomes. The goal with Sironko, and other central processing sites Mountain Harvest manages, is to empower farmers to produce and innovate as a community in ways they could not do on their own.
Natural Processing at Sironko
After the mid-season rains dry up, cherry from nearby smallholders is analyzed with a BRIX meter for a minimum sugar concentration of 18%. Acceptable cherry is then sorted for consistency and immediately moved to raised screen beds for drying. Once the dried pods reach a final moisture content of 10%, they are brought to Mbale for an extended rest of three months in Mountain Harvest’s climate-controlled warehouse, during which they are sampled and cupped for quality assurance.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
This is a relatively large bean at 16-18 screens and with a high density and low moisture and water activity, you should expect it to store well, but crave a bit of heat in the roaster.
Classic Ugandan cultivars grown here by local smallholders include SL14, the locally ubiquitous Scott Labs iteration, first selected in Kenya in 1936 for its tolerance to drought. Despite historically being labelled as a “French Mission” Bourbon selection, it seems to be more closely related to the Typica type plant, per genetic testing as stated by World Coffee Research.
The Nyasaland selection is a Typica with a bit of a global history. You’ll recall Typica was first introduced to India via coffee stolen from Yemen. Some of these trees were taken to Indonesia by the Dutch, and then to the botanical gardens in the Netherlands, where a tree was given to the French. From Paris, coffee reached the Carribean, where British colonists eventually began growing it in Jamaica. Here, it eventually became known as Jamaica Blue Mountain (a local Typica selection of trees which survived a major flood in 1815. By the late 19th century coffee from Jamaica arrived in Malawi (then known as “Nyasaland”), and from Malawi, the same tree was transported to Uganda and became known locally as Bugisu. It’s not only plausible, but highly probable that Nyasaland, Bugisu, and Jamaica Blue Mountain are all essentially the same cultivar, each descending from the original introduction of Typica to the Western Hemisphere.
Diedrich IR-5 Analysis by Doris Garrido
It is a pleasure to taste coffees from Uganda, and even more so when I have the opportunity to roast them. I have a special appreciation for this origin as I went home during the first stage of this Covid situation with a natural coffee that became my treasure during that time and changed the way I brew and appreciate coffee.
This year Uganda Natural from a community in Mountain Elgon is shining on this light roast, I ended with a clean cup full of clear sweet floral aromatics.
As for the previous experience, I know that density here can be a little high and the roast will benefit from lots of heat at the first stage of the roast, so I went that direction.
I charged the batch to 448F with 50% of the airflow and started the gas right away at 100%. I wanted to give this little batch all the push to move the roast. The profile ended simply in theory, after 3 minutes I lowered the gas to 30%. I applied high power to the beginning and then just left the coffee to run to the first crack. Color change happened at 308F and hit the first crack at 383.1F. Here I started the 100% air and I let the coffee for 1:37 minutes to develop and drop at 396F. As for the fast roast, I got a thin-bodied cup with dried strawberries, a delicious soft berry and tart, forward acidity. I will call this roast perfect for a pour-over drinker, but the potential of this coffee is actually higher, you will find the layers of chocolate and a bolder taste if that is what you want, the possibilities for a more traditional roast are endless, this coffee has the capacity to go everywhere because its quality allows flexibility.
Aillio Bullet R1 IBTS Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, we use both the roast.world site and Artisan software to document our roasts on the Bullet. You can find our roast documentation below, by searching on roast.world, or by clicking on the Artisan links below.
Generally, we have good results starting our 500g roasts with 428F preheating, P6 power, F2 fan, and d6 drum speed. Take a look at our roast profiles below, as they are constantly changing!
A high-quality Uganda natural like this doesn’t come in very often. Just once a year, thanks to Mountain Harvest. Approaching this coffee, I knew I’d need to bring the heat while also being careful about the end of my roast cycle. Since I roasted it alongside another East Africa natural from Ethiopia I knew I would be in the ball park by starting with a higher charge temperature and plenty of heat application at first. My goal was to bring out the fruitiness in this coffee without taking it too far into sugar development, getting most of my caramelized sugars from drum contact rather than extended post-crack development.
With a 464F charge temperature, P9 power, and F2 fan I was off to a running start. I reduced heat application to P8 almost immediately, and waited until peak rate of change to increase fan speed to F3. Not seeing much appreciable decrease in rate of change, I decreased heat to P7. Then I did something a little funny – reduced my airflow back to F2 right as yellowing hit, and kept it there for about 1:20 until my usual spike was inbound at 360F. Then I increased my fan speed to F4 and reduced the heat application even further to P6, starting the drop in rate of change towards first crack. Just before first crack, I dialed back even further to P5, and hit F5 a little after first crack to abate all the smoke in the drum. This is quite a chaffy coffee, so make sure to clean your chaff collection after two 500g roasts!
This roast was on the faster side for me at 8:33, and just light enough for a nice filter drip. The ample sugars in this coffee will make it look a bit darker than it tastes, so take that into account if you’re looking through the sight glass to determine roast level.
In the cup, this coffee was full of lovely fruit. Huckleberry compote, freshly squeezed lime, and raspberry all made for a complex and cleanly fruity cup of coffee. One note that really came to the front of the line when tasting this coffee was sweet tarts candy – just delectably tart and sugary. If you’re more of a dark roast fan, you’re going to have a great time with this coffee. There’s so much to work with here that you’ll find fudgy chocolate at darker roast levels, with syrupy dark fruit topping.
This is a super flexible coffee, and it’s going to make a lot of palates happy!
You can follow along with my roast below at roast.world:
Ikawa Pro V3 Analysis by Isabella Vitaliano
Our current Ikawa practice compares two sample roast profiles, originally designed for different densities of green coffee. The two roasts differ slightly in total length, charge temperature, and time spent between color change in first crack. You can learn more about the profiles here.
This coffee comes to us from the exporting group Mountain Harvest. Apart of their mission is to change the narrative around Ugandan coffee and the traditional view that the quality from the region remains at a low level. This coffee along with many others coming from this group will make you believe otherwise. This lot reminds me of a dark fruit medley, the ideal mix of acai, blackberry, plum and cherry. Paired with this full fruit body are hibiscus and a delicious orange-like acidity.
Doris and I cupped through both the high-density and low-density profiles and found some interesting items to note. The low-density roast was a little toastier than expected and had the same dark berry undertone with mint chocolate, raisin and dried fig. The low-density had redeeming qualities of acidity and body but maybe a bit mild for a natural.
The high-density roast expressed the expected plum and dark berry notes with a coconutty mouthfeel, paired with a bright orange acidity. The high-density roast felt more complex, but the roast was a little darker than both Doris and I would prefer.
Both delicious in their own right, I leaned toward the low-density profile while Doris enjoyed the complexity of the high-density. An ideal production batch of this coffee would lie somewhere in the middle of these profiles. Last year we had a natural Ugandan from Mountain Harvest on our dark drip here at The Crown and if I’m lucky I still have dreams about it. You don’t want to miss out on this one. Happy sipping!
You can roast your own by linking to our profiles in the Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Low Density Sample Roast
Roast 2: High Density Sample Roast
Brew Analysis by Joshua Wismans
The slopes of Mt. Elgon, Mountain Harvest once again deliver on one of our favorite naturals of the year. This community lot from the Sironko washing station isn’t the most overt of naturals, but not coy either. Ultimately, it’s hard to brew a bad cup of this coffee, and there’s a few different ways to express its inherent complexity.
For this coffee, we recommend a fine grind, lower dose, and a flat bottom brewer. But no matter what profile you choose, you won’t go wrong.
Espresso Analysis by MJ Smith
Recipe 1: 17.5g dose, 39.8g yield, 32 seconds
Recipe 2: 18.5g dose, 40.1g yield, 33 seconds
Mountain Harvest does it again! With their reputation for being some of the highest quality coffee, not only just in Uganda, but all across Africa, I knew I was in for a treat with this espresso analysis. Packed full of rich, decadent tasting notes, this coffee is a natural process lover’s dream! Charlie mentioned cranberry, cherry, and pineapple in his source analysis, and those notes came across rather expressively on espresso. After trying a near heart-stopping number of shots, I sifted it down to two recipes to discuss.
I’ve been experimenting a bit with lower doses in the 17g range lately, so that’s where I started. While an exact 17g dose wasn’t packing quite the punch I was looking for, I bumped it up to a 17.5g dose and fell in love. I found that a higher yield (39.8g for this specific shot) and a pull time in the mid-to-high range (32 seconds) was helpful in finding this espresso’s true colors. I picked up notes of cherry cola, grilled pineapple, clove, cranberry sauce, and chicory. I ran an identical shot out to the rest of the barista team, who gave me notes of sweet curry, orange and grapefruit citruses, sparkling wine, strawberry, and chocolate. Overall, a super tasty shot!
The next recipe I’ve got for y’all has a dose of 18.5g, a yield of 40.1g, and a pull time of 33 seconds. This was my favorite shot of the bunch. I got cherry pie, baked orange, watermelon, mole sauce, balsamic, and sugar cookie, while the rest of the team picked up lots of key lime, spicy graham cracker, cardamon, hibiscus, almond, and umeboshi. It’s always exciting to me when a fruity natural process coffee has some slight savory notes thrown in, and this coffee was exactly that.
Again, when pulling this or yourself, I recommend a slightly higher yield and pull time, and a dose in the low-to-medium range. For reference, the coffee I’m using for this analysis is currently 7 days off-roast, so take that as you will. All in all, I think this coffee makes for a really delicious espresso that would satisfy all the die-hard natural process fans out there. Enjoy!