We have been continually impressed with the quality of coffee coming out of Uganda in the past few years. For far too long, this unique origin has gone overlooked in favor of it’s more established neighbors like Kenya and Ethiopia. Well producers like Mountain Harvest and Sipi Falls have made leaps and bounds towards changing that! This microlot, along with it’s Honey Processed twin absolutely blew us out of the water. Royal Coffee even chose both of them as coveted Crown Jewel selections, so you don’t have to just take our word for it.
Both the fully washed and honey processed versions of this coffee where given Mountain Harvests “Mbale” designation. This is their microlot classification intended to represent the best of the best from all of its constituent farmers. Furthermore, Mbale coffees are sorted to Uganda’s highest grade: A+. The honey version is just as clean as the washed with just a touch more acidity, slight complexity, rich body and creamy mouthfeel. We tasted ripe grape and blackberry along with persimmon and a hint of hibiscus. Compared to the washed version, the grape present in this offering had more of a winey lean which reminded us of a good cabernet sauvignon. Royal’s cuppers noted a hint of sweet tomato which we weren’t able to pinpoint with our roasts, but we thought we should mention it!
Reminder! This coffee is raw, you must roast it before brewing
Arrival Date: November 11th, 2022 US Arrival: September 2022, packed in Grainpro
Acidity & Brightness: Crisp and quite sweet.
Balance & Finish: Slightly complex, clean finish
Body & Texture: Full bodied to rich and creamy
Flavors: Blackberry, grape, persimmon and hibiscus
Grade: A+, grown at 1600 - 2200 masl
Processing: Honey Process: coffees depulped, and dried in mucilage on raised beds
Grower: Smallholders organized around Mountain Harvest
Region: Yilwanako, Buginyanya, Bushiyi, Makali, Bukalasi and Sipi communities, Mt. Elgon, Uganda
Varietals: SL-14, Nyasaland
Recommended Roast Range: City+ to Full City+ (Light-medium to Medium-dark)
Start at Full City (medium) For the most balanced profile. Lighter roasts will emphasize bright, winey acidity while darker roasts will develop more rounded sweetness and a bit more body. This coffee is incredibly dense, so apply heat liberally early in the roast, but watch out for it to take off near the end of maillard/carmelization. Just before 1st crack it might be best to pull back and let the beans begin to take over or you might push through development too quickly. Your mileage may vary!
Royal Coffee - "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, but who historically struggle to meet specialty standards by processing coffee in tiny amounts on homemade equipment.
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. And their coffee stands up to the best fully washed Uganda arabicas we typically taste all year.
The vast majority of coffee managed by Mountain Harvest is traditionally processed by farmers at home and delivered as parchment. This coffee, however, is a centrally-processed, fully washed microlot from select communities within Mountain Harvest’s farmer network: fresh picked cherry was transported directly from select farms in sealed drums to an experimental processing site constructed by Mountain Harvest near their headquarters in Mbale, where it was depulped, fermented for 24 hours, and dried in larger, carefully-controlled volume on raised beds, all of which is overseen by Mountain Harvest’s processing manager, Ibra Kiganda. Centralized processing is ubiquitous across East Africa but in Uganda it is still rare, where collecting low-quality, often still humid, parchment from smallholders is the norm. While Mountain Harvest has had great success training their farmer base to home-process to excellent standards, the central-processing microlots are an attempt to elevate cup profiles even more through greater control.
Over the course of a full harvest coffees are built into blended containers, single-community lots, experimental centrally-processed lots like this one, and single-delivery microlots for sale. Mountain Harvest’s minimum pricing is 10-30% above local market prices. Unlike other regional buyers who exclusively process centrally or buy lower grade smallholder parchment, Mountain Harvest invests in farmers’ capacity to produce high-specialty cherry or fully-dried parchment coffee within their own resources, helping them maximize their margin when they sell.”