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Cherry Beats Parchment on Mt. Elgon

Uganda is special to us. Taylor and Jake got their 101 in coffee buying on Mt. Elgon in 2005, and ever since we have been working to prove that this is a place to look for specialty. But in a decade of improvements, coffee scores have only risen to the 86 mark, and never any further.

Processing Coffee

Drying has been an issue; it’s wet during harvest. And while there are some washing stations, historically we have preferred buying from premium parchment groups. We found that – when you can work with top farmers – home processing led to more diversity, and a more interesting cup. And in the past it’s always been same-same; you know the conversion, 5 kilos of cherry = 1 kilo of parchment. Well, in the past price has always matched this, making it a wash; if a farmer was lucky enough to delivery in the cherry they could skip the extra work and sell at the same price as if they hulled, fermented, washed and dried parchment at home.

But this year things changed. It didn’t really change in one year, but this was the year that many different initiatives and investments (that we’ve seen since our first work in 2007) came together to challenge that 86 ceiling.  Look at the trucks traversing the mountainside, and the roads now (better) able to carry them. Walk with exporters through refrigerated warehouses and talk with the experts they have brought over from Latin America to manage purchasing and processing.  This is new. Now, taste the difference.

Why? Well, Starbucks is why. And now multi-national exporters are in a pitched battle for the best cherry Mt. Elgon has to offer. This is good for farmers, good for us, and good for you.

We have lost some suppliers in the Kapchorwa region, but our oldest relationships across Mt. Elgon remain strong and are benefiting from improved infrastructure and attention to quality.  Specifically, attention to drying. 

Infrastructure for Cherry Purchasing

With massive investments in cherry purchasing and expansions at washing stations, cherry is now beating parchment on the cupping table. And the price has shifted to show this as well. For the first time in at least 20 years, the price of cherry on Mt. Elgon rides a ratio closer to 4:1 against parchment, making it a better investment for farmers.

Taken together, this is a sign of specialty coming to Uganda in a way that will be more recognizable, more accessible, and more delicious than in years past.

The Bulaago Coffee Farmers Association is Crop to Cup’s oldest relationship. These 84 farmers formed an independent farmers group to band together the very best in their region… a region which “just happens to be” the heartland of specialty coffee from Mt. Elgon.

This year we benefited from a new system for collection and lot separation. Ten producer organizations were divided into three zones, allowing us to separate out top lots and blend to taste. The result is the best Bugisu we’ve brought in to-date which, due to a strong dollar, is available at an incredible price. Consider it as a SO and blend base; this is a consistent work-horse of a coffee that has something different to say if roasted a few different ways.

One ridgeline over from Bulaago is a catch-basin called Gibuzaale, which also ranks as Crop to Cup’s first farmer relationships. Their coffee was stellar this year and deserved a spotlight. So, we brought in a lot for spot for the first time in years and couldn’t be happier to have this winner back.

BULAAGO FARMER GROUP MICROLOT, MT. ELGON, UGANDA

Elevation: 6,100 -6,500 ft
Harvest Cycle: Nov – Feb
No. Farmers: 76
Total Produced: 33 Bags
Lot Separation: Individual producer parchment selection
Varietals: SL14 & SL 28, Narsalang
Washing Method: Fully washed
Drying Method: Patio dried or raised beds

CUPPING SCORES / TASTING NOTES 

Cup: Chocolate, dried mango, passionfruit, raisin, lime, grape wine, plum

OFFERS FOB NJ, Continental Terminals
Starting at 3.61 / 32 bags available

 

BULAAGO FARMER GROUP, MT. ELGON, UGANDA

Elevation: 6,100 -6,500 ft
Harvest Cycle: Nov – Feb
No. Farmers: 76
Total Produced: 500 Bags
Lot Separation: Lots separated by Producer Organization, Zone and then cup.
Varietals: SL14 & SL 28, Narsalang
Washing Method: Fully washed
Drying Method: Patio dried or raised beds

CUPPING SCORES / TASTING NOTES 

Cup: Milk chocolate, honey, lemon, passionfruit, vanilla butter, tootsie roll

OFFERS FOB NJ, Continental Terminals
Starting at 3.19 / 363 bags available

 

UGANDA GIBUZAALE WS, MT. ELGON, UGANDA

Elevation: 4,900 ft
Harvest Cycle: Nov – Feb
No. Farmers: 147
Total Produced: 146 Bags
Lot Separation: Lots separated by Producer Organization, Zone and then cup
Varietals: SL14 & SL 28, Narsalang
Washing Method: Fully washed
Drying Method: Patio dried or raised beds

CUPPING SCORES / TASTING NOTES 

Cup: Delicate citrus acidity, bakers chocolate, toffee, cantaloupe

OFFERS FOB NJ, Continental Terminals
Starting at 3.41 / 146 bags available

 

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