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By Joel Mugabi

As one way of marketing Uganda’s coffee, officials at Kampala’s Embassy in Washington DC in the United States have held a coffee cupping and tasting event at the official Chancery.

Made possible through a partnership between the Embassy and Inspire Africa Coffee led by CEO Nelson Tugume as well as the Africa Coffee Bureau headed by CEO Saleh Nakendo, the coffee tasting and cupping event attracted coffee roasters, coffee importers, coffee shop businesses and diplomats in the Washington DC Area.  Also in attendance was a cross-section of coffee roasters and importers who included Candy Schibli, CEO of South Eastern Roastery, a company that roasts and brews Ugandan Coffee and makes a cold refrigerated single-origin (Sipi Falls) canned brew.

The Africa Coffee Bureau Africa (ACB) was founded by a group of Ugandans in Silver Spring city, United States to promote African coffees, cocoas, vanillas, teas and tourism.  Their ultimate objective is to undertake promotion, competitive market linkages and trade negotiations that will translate into premium incentives and profitability for the African coffees, cocoa, vanilla, tea and tourism in the North American retail chain structure.

Todd Arnett, an authorized SCA Trainer AST and member of the Education Advisory Council for the Specialty Coffee Association SCA, curated the event.  Arnett, who boasts of a 25-year experience in the coffee industry, is a quality assurance instructor at the American Academy of Coffee Excellence in Williamsburg, Virginia. He has conducted training and undertaken consulting projects in coffee consuming and producing countries worldwide, including consultancies with the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). He described Uganda’s Robusta as “Uganda’s best-kept secret.” He welcomed the participation of the Africa Coffee Bureau who have helped to discover niche markets that he is optimistic will reinvent African Robusta competitiveness in the enormously Arabica-dominated United States.

The participants were very curious about tasting Uganda’s Coffea Canephora (Robusta Coffee) – which grows natively in Uganda in the Kampala Forest area and the Lake Victoria Crescent – and they were not disappointed.  While Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of Arabica coffee, Uganda is considered the birthplace of Robusta coffee.

Deputy Chief of Mission Ambassador Santa Mary Laker Kinyera welcomed the guests, and explained that “for Uganda, coffee is woven into the very fabric of not just the economy but the culture.” Kinyera told the attendees that coffee is a main cash crop of Uganda and the biggest foreign exchange earner, being among the top five products exported to the United States from Uganda.

Uganda has experienced growth in the coffee industry, making it the largest exporter of coffee by volumes. Uganda is also the leading producer of Robusta and the second largest producer of Arabica coffee, after Ethiopia, in Africa.

The Ambassador also explained the Embassy’s commercial diplomacy mandate that requires the staff to ensure that Uganda products are promoted, tangibly and stocked on the shelves of stores in the USA and Ugandan coffee served in coffee cups in US restaurants.

“Uganda is not only a good place to do business, but one in which an investor will get the highest return on their investment,” she said.

Bryan Schell, Desk Officer for Uganda at the State Department, expressed deep pleasure at what he described as “taking the relationship with Uganda to the next level, from the boardrooms and exchanges of Diplomatic Notes to seeing a growing tangible business relationship.”

CEO Tugume explained to eager attendees that coffee is an item used to seal relationships and underscore close friendships in Uganda. He stated that it is his dream to ensure that there are Ugandan coffee shops all over the United States. He called on the Government of Uganda to support such an initiative that will see the value chain of coffee increase and change the lives of the farmers at the Ugandan grass-root level. Tugume also called for more Ugandan coffees to get into the United States retail chain structure at fairer prices.

According to the Embassy, the next Uganda coffee-cupping and tasting event is slated for Friday September 10, 2021 at Uganda’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

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