By Rubens Gardelli,
Founder of Gardelli Specialty Coffees,1st place at WCE Italy Roasting Championship for 2014,2015,2016& 2017, 2nd place at WCE World Brewers Championship for 2014, 2nd place at WCE Italy Brewers Championship for 2017
Traveling to Uganda, for me was a challenge for numerous reasons.and a mind-blowing experience.
The first impression when I landed for the first time, was really strange and made me wonder, if I were on planet earth. The clocks, seemed they had stopped 100 years ago ,even in the capital itself. This feeling grew stronger as I was approaching to the village. No electricity ,no water supply and the walls of the houses were made of mud. The scenery took me back, in Italy of my grand-grand-grand father. Uganda was going to prove magical and difficult, at the same time.
The main buyer for all farmers around,called Kawacom, was allocated in the region ,where I did the project. They processed the coffee beans with the traditional washed method but they were drying them, on the floor with turplines below. Quality was not a priority for the farmers, who treated coffee, just like any other agricultural product (bananas, tomatoes etc.). For them ,it is a ’’cash crop: and nothing more’’. When the process finishes after 3 days the local merchant arrives ,buys everything and vanishes. I was really impressed by the whole procedure. Uganda farmers, never even taste their coffee.
MZungu in our language…
…means white man.It is uncommon for these people to see a white man, so just like babies and little children when seeing me on the motorcycle ,they shouted ''MZungu,MZungu'' .It is a word meant to be good, meant to be funny and easy to pronounce. I was thinking about naming after the entire project and Mzungu suited perfectly!
Me and DijoN at the vIllage in Uganda
The idea behind the project…
When the project began, my intention was competing for Italian Brewers Championship ,and I needed just 20-30kg. Then, little by little, my experience for Uganda farmers grew, and realized that bying just a few kilograms, couldn’t change their lives. As my roasting company was growing bigger, in a steady pace, it gave me the capacity to buy bigger lots ,like 40 bags of 60kg each one, and put myself into farmer’s shoes. Regardless, of the crop, every farmer, around the world, needs three basics things.
1.selling the entire crop
3.selling at the highest possible price
"Uganda: Ordinary and simple have left the country! ''
This knowledge made it easier for me to make a proposal to Alex,the best farmer who Dijon (the man behind the whole project in Uganda) had recommended to me.
The Idea was to establish a direct trade. For first harvest, I bought the entire production 3200kg of dried cherries ,after hulling 28 bags of 60kg bags of green beans.
In the next step, I spotted problems, in letting each single farmer to process coffee due to lacking knowledge and interest. Every farmer was doing the way the next one did, without any experimentation or diversity. After all it is just a “cash crop” and quantity is the only thing that matters.
Uganda, nevertheless has competitive advantages such as, healthy soil and traditional old varieties like SL14.
The project started immediately, by building a centralized processing and milling station in the same location to keep everything traceable. Everything was going to be managed and we could know, which farm was every coffee coming from.The main idea was still to change farmer’s life, so I payed about 50% more than other people did in the past ,with one and only request:Quality!And so we started…
My Uganda Coffee..
…is natural processed. This is the innovation, because there are no neutral coffees in Uganda. That leads to great aromas and flavors ,super complexity and high intensity. The methods of processing, picking, drying ,storage which were followed, gave us high quality levels. The road leading to the ideal process method, for this coffee was rough. We did many experiments with Alex in the farm and applied 7 different processing methods.
Location :Sipi fall area
Altitude: 1900m asl
Harvest : late October- late December
Weather conditions :at the day it is like spring time but changes quickly to rainy and cold
Processing method:natural 2.0 ,neutral fermentation (no flavors aromatics,just with my special technique.
Cup score :92-93 points
Cup profile: Intensely sweet, winy,dark chocolate and cherry,soft acidity .Too complex and super intense all the way
Changing the approach that people had about coffee in Uganda, is one of our biggest achievements and emotional fulfillment we succeeded and try it even more, as the time passes by.
From my experience I learnt, that in Uganda ordinary and simple have left the country!