I love coffee. Being a student for the past 18 years of my life, coffee has brought me through many stressful times, from pulling all-nighters in undergrad to writing the appellate brief in 1L. Coffee has also created community in my life. Some of the most interesting conversations have been over a nice espresso or mocha latte.
Naturally, I was really looking forward to going on a coffee tour that past students had told me about. At the end of our trip this past weekend at Sipi Falls (after hiking up to waterfalls, jumping into natural swimming pools, and abseiling down a 100 meter cliff), we were able to learn how the locals made coffee. The type of coffee depends on where it is grown. Sipi Falls is on the slops of Mount Elgon, so the locals made Arabica coffee.
Our guide Sharif lead us through the whole process. He brought us to where the coffee trees grew, explained how the beans changed color from green to red when they were ready to be picked, described the drying process, etc. While I don’t recall the technical details perfectly, I will never forget the passion with which he spoke. Like many of the local people here, he was very proud of his people and the fruits of their labor.
We started with dried coffee beans and helped with de-husking, sorting by hand picking, roasting, and grinding.
All of the local children came close enough to see what we were up to, but still kept their distance. Many of them were extremely shy, probably because they did not know much English. They started huddling around me when I started showing them pictures from our time in Queen Elizabeth National Park. They loved seeing the elephants and lions. Their favorite picture turned out to be a photo of me and two Pepperdine graduates (Jory and Megan) at a football game. Uganda’s favorite pastime. In the end, we all sat around the table enjoying our cups of coffee and speaking in low voices. I was amazed that we were drinking coffee that had simply been dried beans an hour prior. Turns out, coffee really is all about people; the people who develop it and the people you share it with.