Just Coffee Cooperative of Madison had to do something when it heard from a customer who was upset about its selling of coffee from Uganda.
"Ugandan coffee is really good coffee," says Matt Earley. But he got a "quick education" about Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act, passed in February 2014, which made same-sex relations a crime. Part of the international strategy to protest the law was to boycott Ugandan goods, "and coffee is the main export," says Earley.
The cooperative decided that "we wanted to do what we could to support our farmers" while at the same time "contribute to those working on the ground in Uganda to support LGBTI rights," says Earley. "These people have no resources to continue to do the work and are in some cases in danger."
Hence 10% of the revenue from sales of Just Coffee's new "Ugandan Pride" beans will go to the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda.
The beans come from small-scale farmers, "though we are not going to identify who they are," Earley notes, due to possible repercussions in their country.
Ugandan Pride also features a new roast from Just Coffee's Casey Blanche. "I like Ugandan coffees because they're earthy, not in the same way as a Sumatran, but with undertones that give it depth," says Earley. Yet there are also "bright citrus notes -- but not winey tasting."
Earley says Just Coffee will continue to produce Ugandan Pride for as long as it can source the beans, possibly through 2014.
"We're very excited. This is a throwback to the things we did at the beginning of Just Coffee. This is who we are."
Earley is optimistic that Ugandan Pride can help start a conversation on the gay rights issue in social media -- and maybe even in the local coffee shop.