Must Try Drinks in Uganda
Top 8 Things to Drink in Uganda
Whether it is hot or cold, Ugandan weather requires a hot or cold drink in order to lubricate the legendary social graces found in Uganda. These often include a Ugandan’s willingness to drop everything just to see how you are doing. So a drink makes it easier for a Ugandan to do this, and drink to your health at the same time. It’s in our DNA to care and to drink. Below are eight drinks which you must take or will be invited to take while in Uganda.
Tea / chai
Tea rhymes with me; which is a first person pronoun used in declaring one’s undying readiness when it comes to tea time. Because, quite simply, Ugandans love their tea, and they take their tea in two forms: with and without milk.
Tea with milk is called “African tea.” So when you are offered African tea in a restaurant and you agree only to find yourself staring down at milky tea, don’t fret. Your order was not misplaced in the kitchen as the waiter did his rounds. You were served exactly what you ordered.
And that goes for the other kind of tea as well. Yes, tea without milk. This is known as “black tea” or “chai mukalu” in Luganda. At times it is spiced with ginger, lemon grass, and or bay leaves. And, like African tea, it is best served very hot with “accompaniments” (as Ugandans call them) such as either chapatti (some kind of Indian flat bread) in the morning or simple pastries in order to turn your afternoon or evening “Tea time” into “Me time.”
It’s hot and best taken in slurps of sensation. It’s also white, composed of corn or maize flour which is boiled and mingled to thin-thick perfection. Taken slowly, it helps quieten a riotous appetite with healthy amounts of sugar added. You may also add powdered milk to that, if you please. Treat it like the Americans treat cold beer when unwinding to “Miller Time.” For this, my friend, is Millet Time: a time to kick back at any time of the day and sip your porridge in the way the Poet would drink life to the lees. Oh yes, it’s as life-enhancing as it is tasteful.
You could call it light brown porridge courtesy of the way it looks although it’s distinctly different from porridge. And is a beverage made from sorghum flour, fermented sorghum or millet grains and water. Bushera is typically made and consumed in western Uganda, where sorghum, a cereal grain, is majorly grown. But in recent years, Bushera has gained popularity among Kampala residents, who say it is healthy because of the natural ingredients and low sugar content as well as a rich source of energy. Bushera is a good choice for breakfast and is easy to digest.
To prepare it, blend hot water with sorghum flour, which is a source of B vitamins, iron, zinc and proteins. After mixing the water and flour for about 15 minutes over high heat, a fermented portion of the sorghum grain is added. The grain is fermented by soaking in water for three to five days, then drying and crushing it to form a thick, paste-like substance. The liquid mixture of all three ingredients is then chilled in the fridge or freezer and is ready for drinking. The bushera porridge can be sweetened with honey for the perfect sweetness.
A Uganda safari can really work up a thirst for local beers. Here are the 10 major beers in Uganda: Club Beer, Bell Lager, Club Pilsener (also known as Red Top), Enguli, Tusker Malt, Castle Lager, Guinness, Nile Special, Eagle and Senator. In some exceedingly rare cases, you might run into Chairman ESB: Extra Strong Brew. However, we wouldn’t recommend it since packs such a solid punch that you may think you’re in a boxing ring instead of sipping a beer. And since it is exclusively sold in the villages, it could be operating below the Uganda National Bureau of Standards radar.
Nile Special, Bell Lager, Club Beer, and Tusker Malt are the four most popular beers in the country. Ugandans, on any given evening, might be found at their favorite bar with a clutch of these beers while bobbing their heads to the background music playing in a bar. Due to their shared popularity, these drinks are promoted in “Three for shs 10,000” or “Five for shs 15,000” bucket nights. Their smooth viscosity ensures soft and easy drinking.
Waragi (also known as Enguli) is a generic term in Uganda for domestically distilled gin. It comes two forms: there’s “Kasese-Kasese”, originally distilled in the district of Kasese in western Uganda and sold all over the country and “Lira-Lira” which is from Lira district in northern Uganda and sold all over the country as well. These two brands of “Waragi” taste and smell differently but still carry the same sharp tang. Waragi can drop you like a punch from a heavyweight boxing champ, so it is wise to take it in evenly small doses and punch it with soda. Waragi on the Rocks? Sure, it makes sense to put some ice cubes in your Waragi and then let the drink levitate your mood to Cloud Nine, without the crash that comes with a hangover. There are many brands of Waragi such as Leading Waragi, Royal Waragi, but Uganda Waragi is the most popular. It is said to contain the “spirit of Uganda” in the way takes you to heights worthy of your sweetest escape. Originally known as ‘war gin’, Waragi prepared many Ugandan soldiers to overcome what was ranged against them in order to reach new horizons of accomplishment. Waragi has become more than a drink, it’s a cultural digest.
Passion fruit, Orange juice, Lemon juice, Banana juice, Mango juice, Guava juice or an amalgam of all the above or whatever Ugandan fruit may be in season. Frankly, juice in Uganda is as prevalent as the weather in the way it reigns as a digestif in every meal. Ugandans love their juice. And, indeed, as the popular song “Juicy Juicy” by the legendary Ugandan music duo Radio & Weasel goes, “Eh! yah Fire fire can’t cool with di water.”
Rural people in the north and north eastern Uganda make an alcoholic drink out of millet and maize, locally called malwa. This maize, millet beer comes from the East of Uganda among the Bamasaba and Ateso. In the Elgon zone of Eastern Uganda, specifically Bugisu, the Bamasaba call the beverage Bugisu-Kamalule. It is also called Busera or simply Kamalwa. In the neighboring Teso sub region, it is referred to as Ajon. Drank communally, several people sit around a clay pot filled with Malwa and take part in a process called “telephoning” as they suck up through wood straws dipped inside the said pot. This is pot is refilled by a jerrican filled with hot Malwa and, while sipping, Malwa drinkers shoot the breeze and talk of matters that affect the destiny of the clan. It is really truth serum for those who wish to think sense and then say it soon after, hence its importance to every gathering that partakes of it. Be careful, however, for it packs a sneaky punch that can creep up on you and leave you drunk before you even get a chance to realize what’s going on. And, the morning after, you’ll be dazed and asking: “Mal-wat happened to my bicycle?” in a local twist to “Bwana, Where’s my bicycle?”
Of course coffee shops abound in the major towns or cities in Uganda. They complement the caffeinated mood of a relaxed Ugandan population which is so alive to the breezy cool of being on a natural high. Yes, coffee is Uganda’s biggest export and it is subdivided into Arabica Coffee which contributes about 20% of the annual national coffee produce and Robusta Coffee which contributes about 80% of the Coffee produced in Uganda annually. Even though we are Africa’s biggest coffee exporter, Ugandans are not big coffee drinkers only consuming about 4% of all the coffee we produce. That’s because we are too busy drinking tea! However, everyone would agree, Ugandan coffee is delicious or “delish”, as the urban Ugandan coffee taker likes to say in Uglish (Ugandan English). Be sure to try out our Arabica coffee from the mountain regions of Elgon and Kigezi.
Uganda is blessed with all kinds of drinks and refreshments, so you can find all manner of wine and spirit, water along with every species of soda. But the 8 above are our must-haves. And, we hope, after you try them, you shall feel the same way about them as we do. Let’s drink on in Uganda our friends.
About us (Nile Basin Safaris)
Nile Basin Safaris is your safari partner to the paradise that is Uganda and Rwanda. In this near-religious experience, we effortlessly unveil Uganda: the “Pearl of Africa” and Rwanda: the “Land of a Thousand Hills ” on memorable safaris trips.’
So whether you wish to join one of our small group tours or want your very own bespoke safari, Nile Basin Safaris is here to offer you the best of Uganda and Rwanda, with great insight and knowledge of these countries, and impacting the local economies with every dollar you spend.