Fancy a cappuccino — new urban coffee culture emerges in Uganda

Uganda’s expanding middle class is giving rise to a coffee drinking culture that has seen urban coffee houses grow in the country. Uganda grows some of the world’s best coffee but consumes about 3 percent. Most is exported to the European Union and the United States among other countries.

KAMPALA, UGANDA (REUTERS) – Uganda recently held its 9th Barista championship, an annual contest meant to promote the country’s coffee and unveil the brewer with the best coffee-making skills.

Sixteen people took part in the championship which required them to prepare espressos, cappuccinos and original beverages for four judges within 15-minutes.

At barista contests, judges often look for a thick elastic espresso, a cappuccino topped with high calibre foam texture and a unique coffee invention to please the eyes and taste buds.

In the end Denis Agaba won the 2015 title.

A new culture formed around coffee drinking has seen various chains open cafés in Uganda as well as Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda as the shops become popular meeting venues for a growing middle class.

“I appreciate coffee in a way I never thought possible. You have got different coffee beans that’s what I have come to discover and the creativity from the contestants it’s not just the normal coffee whereby you just go and get coffee beans and you just drink, they have taught me that you can actually mix up the coffee with one of your favourite ingredients and you will get same thing that you really love,” said Janet Muthoni, a coffee fan.

“Uganda is a small consumer of coffee; we export a lot of coffee but consume little coffee. This is one of the activities we do to actually encourage the consumption of coffee in Uganda, because I think Uganda consumes only about two percent of the coffee they produce. So we want actually Uganda to become the first consumer of the coffee they produce,” said Eddie Mupende, the event’s organiser.

Many Ugandans have always preferred tea instead in the former British colon. Despite growing some of the world’s best coffee, consumption remains low, as most of the produce is exported.

Africa’s biggest exporter and the eighth biggest exporter globally has about 500,000 small farmers grow coffee. It is

Uganda’s biggest commodity export, accounting for up to 30 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

Africa’s largest producer, Ethiopia which is also said to be the birthplace of coffee, drinks up half of its 330,000 tonnes annual production because the population has traditionally enjoyed the brew.

Coffee is big business in east Africa, which produces some of the world’s finest Arabica and Robusta beans.

Farmers are being encouraged to grow more coffee in the country and capitalize on leading exports to increase their income further.

Entrepreneurs like Anderson Were are capitalising on the sector and using cafes to entice customers keen to try something new.

He runs the Amagara café in Kampala.

“Almost every building in Kampala is having a coffee shop and that compared to what happened five years ago is a plus for the country we are literally saying the country is in the right direction and I believe in the next ten years Uganda coffee consumption will be very competitive in this part of the world especially in the East African region,” said Were.

The continent has long sold commodities that are processed and consumed in industrialized nations, such as cocoa for chocolate or beans for espressos, while Africans get a fraction of the profits.