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Darcy Small, 12 September 2019

Hello from where your coffee comes from. Part 1.


In 2015, I went to Splendour with three high school mates. It rained relentlessly and we drank too much. Our week alternated between wading through ankle-deep mud and curling up on camping mats in gloomy tents, feeling too unwell to move. This trip reminds me of that experience. Paths here need gumboots to navigate and roads are a challenge even for 4x4’s. We’ve been bedridden since Friday afternoon … six hours after we braved a bad breakfast rolex (fried egg wrap). Yet, like Splendour, Uganda will be remembered as awesome.


This year, Kua traded just under two tonnes of coffee. Our 2020 target is seven tonnes (ambitious??) and we’re here to understand exactly where that seven tonnes comes from.

There are three main groups we’ll buy from:

  • Zukuka Bora: produces around 25 tonnes of coffee annually. They pay the fairest prices (plus a 'hungry season bonus’), they know farmers by name and buy only specialty-grade coffee. But, it's expensive.
  • Kyagalanyi: in a word: enormous (as in, they export more than 200 tonnes per day). They buy anything: from the crimson cherries hand-picked at the summit to the wrinkly sultanas traded in the potholed carparks of the foothills. Perhaps surprisingly, they maintain a focus on sustainability, with both UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certifications up their sleeves.
  • AgriEvolve: so far, we’ve bought only from the East. But, two-thirds of Uganda’s Arabica comes from the West. The trees are wild and scraggly, but they have potential. AgriEvolve is a UTZ-certified group pushing specialty coffees that raise the profile of this entire region.

There are three main types of coffee we buy:

  • Washed: coffee grows as a cherry, but it’s the little bean inside that gets Melbourne baristas yapping. After picking, the outer skin is separated using a pulper and the slimy residue that protects the bean is removed by soaking in water for two days.
  • Honey: as it turns out, the slimy residue can be pretty delicious. Honey coffees forgo the soaking step, with the bean and residue sun-dried straight after pulping. We use honey coffee to sweeten our blend.
  • Natural: pick and dry - that’s it. The entire cherry is dried and the bean is pulped out afterwards. This creates whacky and acidic fruity flavours … something Hamish is keen to start experimenting with.
Honey washed coffee beans
Honey coffee. Sipi Falls, Lot 48.

Part One

On day two, we revisited our financial projections and customer feedback to pencil an order for 2020. This is our shopping list:

  • 2T Zukuka Bora: half honey, half washed
  • 4T Kyagalanyi: washed
  • 1T AgriEvolve: natural

Then, as if visiting Aldi on a milk run, we folded the list in half, tucked it in our back pockets and drew up a week-long itinerary to visit the source of each item. So far, we’ve ticked off just the first box. And it was a ride and a half.

Part Two


Here’s our last photo of Hamish. His hand-printed shirt was crispy white two hours prior (buy yours here). He was riding in the tray of Isaac’s (Head of Ops, Zukuka Bora) ute when it started fishtailing on a particularly muddy bend of Mount Elgon’s single-lane road. He jumped out (alongside seven locals) to push, but happened to choose a position directly behind the left rear wheel. Bailey banished him from all photos after this moment.

Hamish, covered in mud.
Hamish, our coffee guy.