Searching for Robusta's Origins in Uganda

How our exploration of the lesser known Robusta bean unearthed something much stronger than coffee.

If coffee beans could star in a Hollywood coming-of-age film, Arabica would play the confident and popular go-getter, turning down romantic gestures and living a seemingly perfect life with his path paved before him. Robusta, on the other hand, would be the misunderstood and self-conscious wallflower; a result of years of prejudices and societal pressures that have been unfairly placed upon him.

But like any Hollywood coming-of-age film, the misunderstood wallflower finds a way to realize a previously unseen potential, of course with the help of affirming friends along the way. Here at Nespresso, we like to think of ourselves as those friends. We’ve always believed that when selected well, and used judiciously, Robusta has a well-deserved place in coffee blends. After all, if we look at the popular Arabica bean, his name doesn’t equate quality: even he needs to be treated well to taste good.

We’ve always believed that when selected well, and used judiciously, Robusta has a well-deserved place in coffee blends.
Coffee cherries image

Robusta has always been the less popular coffee bean, but in reality, it’s just misunderstood

And we’re not the only ones who are starting to recognize Robusta’s rich qualities. In 2009, the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) brought together some of the world’s most celebrated coffee experts and devised a grading system to evaluate high quality Robusta, something that had been unheard of in the specialty coffee world until then. This international recognition paired with our growing love affair for the species, coincided with a hunt to find others who have identified Robusta as the distinct and special species that it is…and this hunt led us to Uganda, where Robusta has been bringing together communities for generations.

This international recognition paired with our growing love affair for the species, coincided with a hunt to find others who have identified Robusta as the distinct and special species that it is…and this hunt led us to Uganda, where Robusta has been bringing together communities for generations.
Children in Uganda with coffee cherries image

Coffee for us is, and will always be, about bringing people together

Since the ancient days, coffee has been a part of Ugandan tribal culture. Oral history tells us that in the KWANJULA ritual, which is part of the traditional marriage ceremony, the groom visits the bride’s family who prepare whole, dried coffee cherries for him. They roast them in a pan not with the intention of drinking the brew, but to chew them whole, like peanuts. Bonded by the symbolism of this shared coffee, the families vow to be loyal to one another.

Another fascinating ritual is the MUKAGO, where each man cuts himself and dips a bean in his blood, offering it to his counterpart to chew. Though this ritual is slightly more grim, its focus on strengthening and sealing a friendship is alluring and beautiful.

When we hear of these and the many other rituals surrounding coffee in Uganda, we can’t help but feel validated. One of the significant reasons we at Nespresso love coffee is because it often brings people together; for us, it is still, and will always be, a ritual.

One of the significant reasons we at Nespresso love coffee is because it often brings people together; for us, it is still, and will always be, a ritual.

Discover our coffee blends with Robusta, Ristretto, Kazaar, Roma, Capriccio and Indriya from India.