Uganda is a somewhat lesser known origin, but offers some excellent cacao. Many bars mention “Bundibugyo” or “Semuliki Forest.” Those both refer to cacao from the Latitude Trade Company, located in the city of Bundibugyo, near Semuliki National Park. Latitude collects fresh cacao from over 1,000 small farmers in the region near then ferments it for 5.5 to 6.5 days before sun-drying it and packaging it for export (they also make their own chocolate!). These farms have, on average, 70% shade, indicating that the cacao is grown under taller canopy trees that can produce other edible crops and provide food and habitat for birds! If you’re interested in sourcing Uganda beans, check out Uncommon cacao. And if you are interested in trying the chocolate, check out these bars - my favorites are Ranger and Soma.
Uganda Semuliki 70%
Flavor: Super intense flavor! Raisin, fig jam, port wine/an alcohol type flavor. Some good flavors but also some over-ripe fruit, slight muddiness. Good texture, appropriate roast, nicely brings out the flavor of the cacao. Literally tastes like biting into dried fruit.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. Never had anything quite like that. This batch of beans could be slightly overfermented, but it is really well made overall, and definitely interesting.
Uganda Semuliki Forest 70%
Flavor: Really intense fruity flavors, dried and very ripe fruit. Somewhere between grape and raisin; port wine/brandy, dried figs, dried cherry, a little earthy. Brownies and vanilla. Good complexity. I liked it better than Fjåk's – they have very similar flavor profiles, but Soma’s has less of the over-ripe fruit/muddiness. That could simply be a cacao lot variation though.
Recommendation: Recommended, really well done. One of our favorites from our recent Uganda tastings!
Uganda Rwenzori 80%
Flavor: A very smooth 80% bar with intense flavor: it reminds me of Ritual's wonderfully bold and tangy style. Rich, with a pleasant savoriness reminiscent of good cheese, like a 3-year Parmigiano in that it has a mix of sweetness and savoriness and a complex, engaging flavor. Pleasant acidity, somewhere between berry and citrus, a little dried cherry. Deep roasted notes; a little bitterness and a rich earthiness on the finish. Smooth texture and melt.
Recommendation: Recommended, good!
Uganda Semuliki 70%
Aroma: rich soil, cocoa shells, spices, gingerbread, dark liquor
Flavor: Creamy, mellow cocoa flavors; marshmallow and hot chocolate. Powdered sugar, light fruity notes, brown sugar, raisin, chocolate-covered cherry. Pleasant levels of astringency, acidity, and little bitterness
Recommendation: Recommended, good!
Uganda Jinja 64%
Uganda Semuliki Forest 77%
Flavor: Really nice. Chocolate pudding – a light cocoa flavored, vanilla, and cooked milk. A little spice: cinnamon, anise, both very light. Faint berry flavors. Slightly dry at the start, like a slight wood note or black tea with molasses and heavy cream. Super smooth texture, slightly cooling effect from the cocoa butter. Intense flavor – but not as intense as Soma or Fjåk.
Recommendation: Highly recommended! (As is everything else we’ve tried from Ranger!) Interesting, enjoyable flavors and excellent texture.
Flavor: Smooth texture, slight mint note, possibly from cocoa butter.
Recommendation: Not recommended. Not unpleasant, but overall bland. We tried one of their other bars recently and it was similar – I think they are using cocoa butter that has some of its own flavor, and it is covering up the cacao flavor a bit. Cacao butter can also give chocolate a flat, cardboard note. It usually makes up just 3-4% of the total ingredients, but it can make a big different in flavor and texture. Again, it’s not bad, and they have some interesting origins – Indonesia, India, Ghana, and more – so I’d be curious to try their chocolate again in the future.
Uganda Semuliki Forest 73%
Flavor: Some dusty flavors like cocoa powder, vanilla wafer cookies, maybe slightly stale nuts. A nice a back of the throat acidic bite, some fruitiness, a starchy note, then mellows out to lingering fruity finish.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. Overall pleasant, but not our favorite Uganda bar. Soma is better, Fjåk has more intense flavors but this lacks the over-ripe fruit note.
Uganda Semuliki Forest 74%
Aroma: damp earth, chocolate, rubber, pencil eraser
Flavor: chocolate cookie, teddy grahams, a little faint red fruitiness, grains/slight green flavors, dark roasted almond, peanut, slightly unpleasant muddy/bitter flavor like coffee grounds. Some pleasant flavors – hazelnut. Not a lot of distinctiveness. Commercial semisweet chocolate.
Recommendation: Not great: well made with mediocre beans. Issues with beans, not maker – they make great chocolate. I can’t say this one was a favorite, but it’s the inherent flavor of the beans that I’m not fond of, not the maker. I’ve had lovely things from Monsoon before and definitely recommend them, especially the Tanzania bar.
Batch info: Batch 5; Best by September 2022
Aroma: cocoa powder
Flavor: Some classic chocolatey notes, toasted almonds, almond butter, cocoa cookies, a slight green, whole grain-like sourness, some fruitiness. As it melts, hints of caramel and red berries, but faint against the overall roasty/almond/chocolatey profile. Very cocoa buttery texture.
Recommendation: Recommended; pleasant flavors and a nice example of this origin. Perhaps a slightly high roast that leads to the loss of some of the complexity, but no burnt flavors and overall pleasant. A very rich, cocoa-buttery texture.
Batch info: Best by December 27, 2021
Aroma: Classic chocolate, cocoa powder, sweet grass
Flavor: Rich chocolate with a hint of lovely bright acidity: chocolate pudding, chocolate cake, brownie, with some almost effervescent lemon notes that emerge as it melts.
Recommendation: Recommended. This is my favorite bar from Sjölind’s thus far, and a nice example of Uganda beans. Find at Sjölind’s Chocolate House in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, as well as online from Yahara