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From the West to the West, but worlds apart His smile says it all. Mt Atkinson Coffee Roaster Jacob Parsons has gone from running a coffee cart in Atkinson Road in 2010 to landing his first container of coffee beans directly from farmers he personally knows in West Uganda. “It’s a dream that’s become reality,” says Jacob who, with his wife Emily, has formed a deep affection for the people of the remote Kanunga area and wants to ensure the fairest financial outcome for the farmers who produce the beans. The couple had been doing volunteer work in Gulu, in Uganda’s north-west, for a number of years, building concrete water tanks along with Emily’s father, Waiheke Islandbased Brett McDonald and it was then Jacob formed a strong attachment to the people. “It’s not a war zone any more but when you’re shovelling concrete with the local guys, doing physical labour, they share their stories of personal Jacob Parsons: Transforming lives suffering and the atrocities with coffee. they’ve been through, and you can’t help but become attached to the people and get invested in the place,” Jacob says. During each of six trips Jacob made while volunteering, he’d always tacked on coffee research and in 2016, met Gerald Bubazi who’d also been researching and seeking business opportunities for his people. “Gerald’s parents had pioneered a lot of community work in the Kanunga area relating to schools, education and water, and as he’d grown up drinking coffee in the area, he knew it was an incredible product,” Jacob says. So Gerald set up Gorilla Summit Coffee, getting local farmers to grow “really good coffee and paying them a good price,” says Jacob. Gerald also became involved with what he calls Community Transformation Initiatives, putting solar panels on the roofs of coffee farmers’ houses, providing mosquito nets for their beds, sponsoring their children to attend school and helping set up maternity clinics. When Jacob asked Gerald how he could help, the response was simple. “Buy our coffee.” “It’s tricky to export from there,” says Jacob. “The growing area is

remote, in a big valley, not unlike the Waitākere Ranges but at the altitude of Mt Ruapehu. “It took us a year to get it off the ground in Uganda and land the beans here. Uganda’s one of the dodgier countries and New Zealand is very strict when it comes to importing nuts and seeds. “We managed to organise shipping and secure costs but the coffee beans were leaving from the port of Mombasa and had to be driven there on a truck from Kampala (about 1,000km). No-one in the world will insure any product on that road. It’s risky. It’s a nervous process.” The next challenge was the MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) inspection in Auckland but that was fine. Jacob and his team have spent several months roasting, tasting and blending the Gorilla Summit coffee. It is now being sold locally by Mt Atkinson Coffee Roasters to cafés, catering companies, film studios and online. “The key driver for Emily and I is how this enterprise is changing lives,” says Jacob. “The farmers in Kanunga are growing good coffee and getting a good price for it and that’s transforming their lives. And people here can have their lives transformed by a good coffee too. It’s super-exciting to be importing directly. It’s very special.” – Moira Kennedy

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The Fringe SEPTEMBER 2019


Profile for Fringe Media

The Fringe, September 2019  

Formerly the Titirangi Tatler, The Fringe is a community magazine serving West Auckland

The Fringe, September 2019  

Formerly the Titirangi Tatler, The Fringe is a community magazine serving West Auckland