Zukuka Bora Launch

In June 2017 Commonfolk hosted an event celebrating a truly amazing accomplishment: After four years of blood, sweat and tears the first ever harvest of Zukuka Bora coffee arrived in Australia.

 Commonfolk packed out for the launch of Zukuka Bora

Commonfolk packed out for the launch of Zukuka Bora

Commonfolk proudly purchased the entire first harvest - a total of just over three tons of green coffee beans from farmers in the Wanale and Budwale regions. They have been working with The Cup That Counts (check out this link for more info) to form the Zukuka Bora collective. What makes this even more amazing is that the entire project from the coffee plants, training, infrastructure and processing equipment was funded by the coffee drinkers of the Mornington Peninsula.

Not only is this a first for the Peninsula but it’s also a first for Australia and maybe even the world!

 Farmers working with Zukuka Bora meticulously select the best cherries

Farmers working with Zukuka Bora meticulously select the best cherries

The pressing issue was, of course, how does the coffee taste? We had already sampled the coffee in Uganda mid-harvest but we were keen to see what impact the processing and shipping had on the quality. The coffee was separated into individual lots; Budwale, Wanale, and Peaberry. The coffee was all SL14 Arabica - a varietal endemic to Uganda. All the coffee was processed using the Most Ugandan coffee displays low to medium acidity, big body and intense sweetness and the Zukuka Bora was no exception. In fact, it was the finest Ugandan coffee we had ever sampled. The coffee displayed notes of black cherry, molasses, burnt toffee and had a subtle tropical fruit finish. Commonfolk only purchases specialty grade coffee (coffee that has a cupping score of 80+). The Zukuka Bora lots all cupped between 81-85 with the Peaberry scoring the highest. We were so enamoured with some of the lots that we decided they were good enough to feature as single origin coffees. Now when you come into Commonfolk you can sample a direct trade, direct funded coffee that tastes great. Hopefully the success of The Cup That Counts and Zukuka Bora will inspire the coffee industry to consider investing in similar projects. and graded and sorted to traditional Ugandan standard.

The coffee tasted amazing!

 Besty whipping up some tasty ZB espresso's

Besty whipping up some tasty ZB espresso's

Most Ugandan coffee displays low to medium acidity, big body and intense sweetness and the Zukuka Bora was no exception. In fact, it was the finest Ugandan coffee we had ever sampled. The coffee displayed notes of black cherry, molasses, burnt toffee and had a subtle tropical fruit finish. Commonfolk only purchases specialty grade coffee (coffee that has a cupping score of 80+). The Zukuka Bora lots all cupped between 81-85 with the Peaberry scoring the highest. We were so enamoured with some of the lots that we decided they were good enough to feature as single origin coffees.

Now when you come into Commonfolk you can sample a direct trade, direct funded coffee that tastes great.

 Sorting through parchment 

Sorting through parchment 

Hopefully the success of The Cup That Counts and Zukuka Bora will inspire the coffee industry to consider investing in similar projects. The impact of Zukuka Bora was being felt far beyond the Mornington Peninsula. The people who benefited the most from the first harvest are the farmers, pickers, and their families on the slopes of Mt Elgon in Uganda.

The harvest had a direct impact on 20,000 of the most vulnerable people in Mbale.

 20,000 of the most vulnerable people directly benefitted from Zukuka Bora's harvest

20,000 of the most vulnerable people directly benefitted from Zukuka Bora's harvest

Before Zukuka Bora invested in the local coffee farmers the only option they had was to sell their coffee to faceless international coffee dealers at a market price that was entirely detached from the actual cost of production. It took a while for the farmers to come around to the fact that Zukuka Bora was happy to pay more for higher quality coffee but by the end of harvest we were purchasing the finest coffee on the mountain for the highest price.

The lasting legacy of the harvest will be a ‘hungry season’ bonus Zukuka Bora will be able to pay to the farmers. Normally when the farmers sell coffee they receive a one off payment and have to stretch it out until harvest the next year. Often they struggle to feed their families, especially during the dry season when the crops they rely on are unreliable and at the mercy of the rains. Due to the high price Zukuka Bora received for the coffee, they were able to provide an additional payment to the farmers when they needed it the most.

 Tony, Caleb, Sam, Ryan and Marichi discuss sustainability in coffee

Tony, Caleb, Sam, Ryan and Marichi discuss sustainability in coffee

This year we expect to triple the output of Zukuka Bora and produce even more coffee. We’re also working on a number of experimental processing methods not traditionally used in Uganda to try and increase the quality of the coffee. We have extended our geographical footprint and will purchase coffee from the neighbouring region of Sipi Falls famous for producing high quality SL28 Arabica. It is a truly exciting time to be growing coffee on Mt Elgon.

So many people helped make the first harvest of Zukuka Bora a success.

 Dave and Luke

Dave and Luke

Dave Bishop and his incredible team on the ground in Uganda worked long into the night throughout harvest season to ensure the coffee was processed to the highest standard. Robbie, Vinnie, and the rest of the team at JENGA who had the vision that coffee could be a vehicle for change on Mt Elgon. Tony and Celina from First Crop Coffee who handled the entire importing process and provided invaluable guidance and assistance. All the Commonfolk and Merchant & Maker staff who volunteered their time and their tips to make sure The Cup That Counts had the funding it needed. And last but certainly not least the coffee drinking public of the Mornington Peninsula who have funded The Cup That Counts by buying our coffee (20c from every coffee goes to The Cup That Counts). Without you there would be no funding for The Cup That Counts, and ultimately there would be no Commonfolk… which I think we can all agree would suck.

Sam Keck