Uganda 2017: the Maasai’s coffee
The search for originality forces always more often to travel to places that are more and more distant and inaccessible. Sometimes it happens, however, that some areas not developed, but full of promises, unfold before us for a series of odd circumstances.
This is the case of the Kapchorwa district, on the northern slope of Mount Elgon. A Maasai tribe – the Sebei – settled here several hundred years ago and has dedicated itself to agriculture, contrary to the habits of the other tribes of this ethnic group, usually breeders and warriors
Sebei tribe and their will to improve themselves
Coffee is so much in their blood, that in their language (kupsabiny) they distinguish between coffee in general (mwuaninag), green coffee (chokacipony), roasted coffee (chokacisus), ground coffee (chokichngai) and coffee as a drink (chokeyei).
It is in this area of eastern Uganda, between 2.000 and 2.200 m, that the Sebei grow the coffee and it is here that we went twice during 2017. The meeting with these small farmers was absolutely unique and stimulating. Proud people, with a haughty bearing, but open to any improvement they are proposed.
Our new friend Kalifani
In particular, the meeting with Kalifani, organizer of the local cultural center, immediately triggered a spark between us. He listened to us and followed us so intensely that we could not realize how much he understood of all the new notions we were giving him about the harvest, the fermentation and the drying of the coffee. But, in two days’ time, he had already accomplished what would require years to other people.
Here the land, sloping gently towards the valley, extends to a natural terrace, from which your eyes get lost admiring an immense plateau, reaching up to the endless expanses of papyrus of the lakes Bisina and Opeta. If you have an ideal image of Africa in your eyes, from this natural terrace of Mount Elgon you can perceive its grandeur and beauty.
Unfortunately, on the Mount Elgon the harvesting season coincides with the final phase of the rainy season. Sometimes you have to cover the coffee and run away to take shelter before it’s too late. It is not easy to dry the coffee properly in this district and it is not easy to keep the humidity at levels matching the quality that we require, but the enthusiasm of Kalifani and his acolytes does not seem to notice the obstacles arising on their path.
To achieve the full potential of these coffees we will have to wait for another harvest. Then we’ll talk about it!