This dark roast offering comes from one of the least likely places to find specialty coffee in Africa: the Western Highlands of Uganda.
In a region torn by conflict, much of the coffee grown here is Robusta—the heartier, less tasty sibling of Arabica. However, some Arabica is grown here, but it is more commonly known as drugar (“dried Ugandan Arabica”). It does not have a good reputation, but the importer of this coffee, Crop to Cup, saw potential. They started working with the Uganda Kika Cooperative to increase the quality standards of picking, processing, and sorting, and this coffee is the result.
This coffee is grown at 1580 – 1800 meters above sea level and is processed naturally, with cherry separation by floating and raised bed drying. It is comprised of Kent, Jackson, and SL14 varieties, all Bourbon derivatives.*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Uganda Kika, from One Line Coffee in Columbus, Ohio. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Kasese, Uganda
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Uganda Kika Cooperative
elevation: 1580 – 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: Kent, Jackson, SL14
The aroma of the Uganda Kika is pretty abrasive—it’s not a pleasant aroma, but, at the same time, it’s not completely intolerable either. It’s smoky, earthy, musty, and savory, with some distinct leather notes.
Taking my first few sips of the coffee, the flavor follows the nose. This is a big, full-bodied coffee with a thick, velvety mouthfeel, and its flavor profile features many of the same notes I detected in its aroma. It’s a rustic and, again, somewhat abrasive coffee. While I’m tasting massive savory flavors of earth, wood, leather, malty Scotch, peat, and clove, I’m also tasting smoke and metal. Bubbling just beneath the surface, though, are some really great flavors of cola, caramelized brown sugars, nectarine, black cherry, raisin, plum, Merlot, and other dark, fleshy fruits. I just wish these flavors were more prominent; this could have been a much different/better(?) cupping experience if that were the case.
This isn’t my first experience with a Ugandan coffee, but it is my first experience with a drugar coffee. And, I have to say, I’m walking away from the cupping table with mixed feelings.
One Line Coffee’s Uganda Kika was such a bizarre, unique, and complex cupping experience, but it was mostly bizarre. As aforementioned, drugar is a form of Arabica coffee, but it seems to share many of the same qualities of its Robusta counterparts—a big, full-bodied coffee with a flavor profile that was savory, spicy, and musty… Now that I’m thinking about it, this coffee’s profile was pretty similar to that of a Sumatra, but much more savory than spicy (particularly with its prominent earth/wood/leather/Scotch malt notes). Beneath those flavors, though, were some absolutely brilliant dark fruit and red wine nuances.
I really wish those flavors would have been much, much prominent, but I’m wondering if they even could have been. Could One Line’s roaster have done anything to influence the coffee’s overall profile in that way? One Line markets this as a “dark roast” but it didn’t seem all that dark to me; it certainly didn’t possess any of those abrasively roasty notes (carbon, metal, smoke, etc.) that I associate with dark roast coffees. Could the Uganda Kika have benefited from a lighter roast, or would that have made the coffee even funkier?
I’m going to chalk this one up to a learning experience. In terms of enjoyment, this cup wasn’t particularly for me; but it was a very unique offering from a continent so renown for its fruity and floral coffees.
*content courtesy of One Line Coffee
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.