intro

This dry-processed Uganda comes to us by way of smallholder producers growing coffee on the northern slopes of Mount Elgon, a massive peak split nearly in two by the border of Uganda and Kenya. The microregion is rife with coffee and is well-served by the Sipi Falls mill, a centralized washing station with the capacity for processing cherry and drying coffee to improve the value to local farmers.

Coffee producers in the region had been home processing their coffee (and still do), thinking it was a way to add value to their crops. Kawacom, the export industry that owns the Sipi Falls washing station, has gone to great lengths to sit down with producers and show them the time savings and added value (and quality) by contributing their unprocessed cherry to a central mill where washing, fermenting, and drying can be performed consistently with professional oversight. They have also started an example nursery with high quality varieties and provide agronomic support to the local smallholders, many of whom are families led by women.

This particular micro-lot is one of just a small handful of natural coffees produced by the station. Coffees like this, where the fruit is untouched and allowed to sun-dry retain high amounts of fruit flavor from the increased contact time with the cherry. This lot was floated in water to sort for density and damaged beans prior to drying. The raised beds provide even airflow and the employees of the mill turn the coffee frequently to ensure uniform drying for optimal quality and shelf life.

green

Compared to its honey-processed counterpart, this natural process coffee is a little more spread out in size and a bit lower density with slightly higher moisture figures. Stacked next to nearly any other coffee, each of these contrasts would be reversed, as across the board the coffee exemplifies the hallmarks of well processed East African coffees in each category.

The lot is comprised of Scott Labs selections 14 (increasingly seen in Uganda) and 28, both classic French Mission Bourbon derivations. SL14 is coffee berry disease (CBD) and drought resistant, and the SL28’s popularity in Kenya has been well documented. Jamaica Blue Mountain comes from the other side of the Arabica family tree: it is a Typica hybrid of indeterminate proportions originating in (you guessed it) Jamaica, but has been introduced in Africa via Kenya as early as 1913.

taste

roast

This is a dense coffee with a small screen size takes heat on very quickly and races through the Maillard stage. In roast one, I started with a higher charge temperature and applied heat just before yellowing. This proved to be enough heat to carry through to the end of the roast. On the second roast, I decided to slow things down a bit and used a lower charge temperature and my lowest gas setting. I slowly increased heat throughout the roast as needed. This strategy increased my drying time compared to the first roast and kept my rate of rise between 13-10°F over 30 seconds.

Roast one: Grape candy, raspberry, vanilla, honeydew, juicy
Roast two: Watermelon, concord grape, cacao nibs, citrus juicy

behmor

This fruit dried Uganda was very well behaved in the Behmor, and did not exhibit any of the ‘racing’ that is common for naturals during post-crack development. Though Jen seemed to experience more of this in the predictably powerful Probatino, the Behmor’s BTUs weren’t enough to elicit this response. This coffee cracked later and finished later than its washed counterpart with one notable difference: the difference between whole bean and ground Colortrack numbers were more extreme for the washed. All indications here point to a very even roast. Let’s see if other natural coffees perform similarly in the Behmor!

brew

I played it pretty safe with these roasts at about a full week off the roast, tossing 40g of each into Chemexes and brewing side-by-side with 50g pulses, an 80g / 60 sec preinfusion, and a 16-to-1 ratio. Both were pleasant, the brew of the first roast was slightly fruitier, the second roast seemed a little sweeter and more balanced, but both showed off the cleaner side of this potentially vigorously fruity coffee. Brewing with either higher TDS or higher extraction percentage would likely have taken the coffee into that fruit jam and sweet berry wine territory. If avoiding ‘natural’ flavor controversy is your aim, however, the Chemex seemed to be the right choice.

Origin Information

Grower
Smallholder farmers organized around the Sipi Falls washing station
Variety
Blue Mountain, SL14, SL28
Region
Kapkwai, Kapchorwa District, Eastern Region, Uganda
Harvest
September - February
Altitude
1300 – 2000 meters
Soil
Volcanic loam
Process
Dried in the fruit on raised beds in the sun.
Certifications
Rainforest

Background Details

Uganda Kapkwai Sipi Falls Natural Dried Crown Jewel is cultivated on family owned farms located on the slopes of Mount Elgon in the Kapkwai region of the Kapchorwa district, Uganda. Harvested cherries are received at the Sipi Falls mill, named after a trio of majestic waterfalls in the area. Cherries are sorted then dried on raised beds under retractable roofs. The mill’s capacity to ensure strict drying protocols has improved coffee quality and create sustainable incomes for farmers in the region.