This month we head to Uganda for a stunning coffee from the Mzungu Project, headed up by Rubens Gardelli from Gardelli Specialty Coffees. It’s a uniquely processed coffee, bursting with sweetness, dark chocolate, and cherry. It’s a great coffee to end the year on!

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About the Coffee:

Harvest: Nov 2016 – Jan 2017

Plant Varietal: SL 14 and Nyasaland

Process: Natural 

Fermentation & Drying method: Top Secret

Farm location and other Characteristics:

Country: Uganda

Origin: Sipi Falls

Altitude: 1900-2000 masl

Annual Production: 3000 kg green

The bean: SL 14 and Nyasaland

Nyasaland is a difficult bean to get hold of much information about, being a relatively unknown Arabica coffee variety. It is locally believed to mean “from afar or far away”. The variety can be traced back to Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) where it arrived in 1878. It was distributed to Tanzania and Uganda by Nyasa Seed Company in 1900. Nyasaland can often taste of apples and is distinguished by its long bean shape and long winding centre line, with a tree that can grow up to 50ft. 

SL-14 is one we know plenty about, being the lesser known precursor to the SL 28 and Sl 34 varieties created by Scott Labs during 1934 to 1963. SL 14 is highly susceptible to Coffee Berry Disease, so is often planted alongside SL 28 (itself susceptible to Coffee Berry Disease, but hey — not as much …) as a mitigating strategy. SL 14 is generally characterised with a gentle fruity acidity backed up by a sweet, rounded body, and pleasant aroma.

Processing and drying:

Rubens told us we could ask any question we liked — except about processing … In his own words:

“My Ugandan coffee is natural processed. 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 (the farmer) in the farm and applied seven different processing methods.” — None of which we can talk about ; ) ????


The origin: Uganda

Most coffee grown in Uganda is Robusta, with Uganda widely viewed as the birthplace of Robusta. Robusta is the largest exported coffee variety in Uganda, with Arabica making up only 20% of the countries exports (but definitely growing!) A large problem in Uganda with elevating Arabica into specialty coffee comes down to infrastructure, quality, and knowledge. Uganda has traditionally been a tea drinking country, with coffee primarily grown as a cash crop. Some Ugandan’s even think coffee beans are a prime ingredient in gunpowder, because they can’t figure out why we would buy it at such a price! 

Up to the early 1990s the state was in control of the coffee industry, but following liberalisation from 1991 on, coffee farms are now 100% in private hands. Over 500,000 small holder farmers now rely on coffee as their primary source of income. For this reason quality has not always been a priority — as a cash crop the emphasis is on harvesting and selling the beans just like bananas or tomatoes. This means selling the entire crop as quickly as possible for the highest price they can get. Quality of the beans never enters the conversation. However, when quality is prioritised, Ugandan coffees handily compete on the specialty coffee stage. Just ask Rubens 😉 


The roasters: Rubens Gardelli

When we showcased the Kiriani last year with Rubens Gardelli, he had been awarded:

  • 1st place 2016 WCE Italy Coffee Roasting Championship
  • 1st place 2015 WCE Italy Brewers Cup
  • 1st place 2015 WCE Italy Coffee Roasting
  • 2nd place 2014 WCE World Brewers Cup
  • 1st place 2014 WCE Italy Brewers Cup
  • 1st place 2014 WCE Italy Coffee Roasting Championship

Since then he’s picked up 2nd place at the 2017 WCE Italy Brewers Cup, and 1st place at the 2017 WCE Italy Coffee Roasting Championship. It’s only been a year so you can forgive him for not winning more.  

The Mzungu Project began for Rubens as a means to secure competition level coffee for the Italian Brewers Championship. Initially needing only around 20-30kg, he realised quickly this small amount of coffee wouldn’t move the needle much in helping the farmers he was working with and coming to know well. For that he’d need to set up direct trade, which would also give him the opportunity to be involved in the processing of the beans, allowing him to experiment with different techniques. 

For first harvest, he bought the entire production 3200kg of dried cherries. After hulling this left him 28 60 kg bags of green beans. Rubens goes on to say:

“Uganda, nevertheless, has competitive advantages such as healthy soil and traditional old varieties like SL14.”

“The project started immediately, by building a centralised processing and milling station in the same location to keep everything traceable. Everything was going to be managed and we could know which farm every coffee was 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 only one request: Quality!”

“Changing the approach that people had about coffee in Uganda, is one of our biggest achievements and emotional fulfilment. We succeeded and will try it even more, as the time passes by.” 

“From my experience I learnt that in Uganda ordinary and simple have left the country!”


The Water:

Head over here to start off with your own bespoke mineral water recipes; we highly recommend using these for your brewing water. As usual we stuck with recipe 6, which is quickly becoming our go-to brewing water recipe. 


In a stunning sophomore effort to Matt’s original V60 recipe on YouTube (over 150k views!) the BH crew ate way too much food celebrating Thanksgiving and shot the video below. Here Matt shows great coffee is definitely possible in 59 seconds or less ????


The recipe is fairly simple:

1:16 ratio

12g coffee (coarse ground for V60)

36g bloom (water just off boil)

192g water total 

Total brew time 2.30 – 3.00


Let us know how you went with your brew in the comments below!


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