But now farmers in the highlands of Mbale, in eastern Uganda, who used to earn 40 US cents per kilogram, are earning four times as much thanks to co-operative movements such as Peace Kawomera, or "delicious peace".
Peace Kawomera is an inter-faith coffee co-operative set up by J J Keki, a Jewish Ugandan farmer.
Major coffee producing countries:
1 - Brazil
2 - Vietnam
3 - Colombia
4 - Indonesia
1 - US
2 - Germany
3 - Brazil
4 - Japan
Steven Kabala, a farmer in the co-operative told Al Jazeera that because of fairer prices for his product he can now feed and educate his entire family - all of his 16 children.
"I work in the co-operative and sell my crops through the co-operative," he said. "Through it I have managed to educate my children."
He said the success was because small scale farmers had joined together to give them a unified voice in the global market.
But it has been a slow and difficult process for the farmers to get value for their coffee, most of which is sold in the US.
The US company buying their coffee has only given a three year guarantee of the price.
Multinational companies almost completely control the global coffee market and are often accused of making huge profits, while the 25 million farmers who make their living from growing it, live in poverty.
Coffee is the world's second most traded commodity and about 70 per cent of the world's coffee is still grown on small farms in Latin America, Africa and East Asia.