Coffee Review Monday ranked a Uganda Fair Trade Bukonzo roasted by Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters in Crystal Lake among the top 30 coffees internationally of 2017.
In its assessment, Coffee Review gave an outstanding 93-point rating on a 100-point scale to the Ugandan coffee from Conscious Cup, placing it 26th on the Top 30 list.
“We’re honored over this recognition for our roast but it really shines a light on years of hard work by farmers in Uganda. The award is credit to the the woman-owned, Uganda Bukonzo Organics Cooperative Union,” said Michael Shipley, managing partner of family-owned Conscious Cup.
The deeper story lies behind how this coffee arrived at Conscious Cup, one of the first roasters in the U.S. to acquire such high-grade coffee from this region of Africa. The coffee is farmed by the Bukonzo cooperative from an area rising from decades of intense strife and civil along the border of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda in Uganda’s Kasese region of the Rwenzori Mountains, the Mountains of the Moon.
“One result of this conflict was that this part of the world saw a lot of armies, refugees and hard homecomings. In this part of Uganda, for example, coffee beans are known as ‘bullets’ because crops were commandeered and sold to fund insurrections – both when these rebels were in the bush or in the government. For this reason many coffee trees were uprooted,” said Jacob Elster, co-founder of the importer, Crop to Cup LLC, with Taylor Mork.
As the wars ended, those farmers who returned most frequently planted hardy but less-desirable Robusta coffee trees. The Bukonzo cooperative initially grew a commodity level grade of Arabica coffee, an island of Arabica in a sea of Robusta. The coffee Conscious Cup acquired this year is the result of intense effort by Crop to Cup, which worked directly on crop and processing improvement with the cooperative beginning in 2014.
“Although Uganda has struggled over the years to produce top Arabica coffees worthy of its excellent terroirs and hard-working growers, producers have clearly succeeded here with this very impressive, quite distinctive offering in the deep, resonant style of the best Central Africa coffees,” Coffee Review wrote of the Uganda Bukonzo from Conscious Cup.
Coffee Review described the Conscious Cup submission as “Zesty but deeply and resonantly nut-toned. Roasted cashew, oak, apricot, orange zest, magnolia-like flowers in aroma and cup. Zesty yet sweet, almost sugary, in structure, with a savory hint. Plush, lightly syrupy mouthfeel. Fruit notes in particular persist in a round, resonant, quietly flavor-saturated finish.”
“Our customers love great coffees, and it’s important to them that the coffees we buy are socially conscious. We love the flavors we get from this Ugandan coffee and we credit the farmer and importer by telling their stories,” Shipley said.
Since 1997, Coffee Review, founded and led by Ken Davids and Ron Walters, has become the world’s leading authority on fine, specialty-grade coffees, assessed on a 100-point scale similar to ratings for wine.
Conscious Cup first submitted coffee in 2012, earning a 94-point review for an Ethiopian Harrar roast. Each coffee submitted by Conscious Cup since has earned 90 points or better, all rated “outstanding” by Coffee Review’s criteria.
This year, Conscious Cup has earned outstanding level reviews for an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (92 points) and just recently a Kenya AB (93 points) and Costa Rica Las Lajas Perla Negra (91 points) in addition to the 93-point Ugandan Bukonzo.
Conscious Cup has been roasting fine coffee at high craft since 2006. Coffees from Conscious Cup are available at its cafe and roasting works at 5005 Northwest Highway, Suite 101, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 and at the company’s cafe, Cook Street Coffee, at 100 E. Station Street, Barrington, IL 60010.