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  10. Timor No Leste

    Timor No Leste

    Posted from the road, some thoughts on coffee from East Timor (Timor Leste) and working with small holder farmers.

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Timor No Leste

Timor No Leste
Aug. 7, 2019

East Timor is the independent nation of a mere 1.25 million people that kindly shares its landmass with Indonesia, split down the middle. The separation did not come easy or without violence.

While Timor Leste has matured, there’s something about this place that always seems things are being made up as they go along. And they are open to suggestions. A video loop running in the airport invites you to come to Timor, get free land from the government and build a shipyard. Please, just think about it.

Coffee was mandated by the Portuguese colonial masters to be planted by the rural Timorese. There were some large plantations but generally it was a form of tax on the poor to provide coffee to the large central mills.

Something about coffee here still feels sad in that way. Prices paid for cherry or parchment are not that bad, but if you only have a few hundred trees, what does that amount to? Small farm sizes are just part of the problem; the yield per tree of coffee cherry is incredibly low. A tree produces 500 to 800 grams of cherry per harvest. That’s about 20 cents of fruit!

What’s needed here is new plantings or better-yielding coffee, more organic inputs to the soils, which are very depleted, farmer training for pruning and replanting. It happens on a small scale by coops and private companies but a real political program for the countries coffee farmed is what’s really needed. And that’s not in the works.

I made a quick trip to a new washing station in operation this year in Haupa, near Letefoho town, were we have focused buying in the past. Based on the cupping we did, interrupted by soccer games on the drying patio with the local kids, this crop has some nice cup quality.

Timor coffees aren’t full of crazy top notes, but they are good bittersweet balanced coffees, not too acidic, great viscosity, thick, cocoa-laden, a classic cup.

In addition to being a solid cup, these coffees we are getting are fully traceable, coming from a small scale community project that looks at the goodness of the coffee as part of a bigger goal: making a supply chain from farm to consumer that benefits everyone.

The project is a private effort run by Peter Dougan, who has been in East Timor six years developing his fresh farm produce business to get small village farmers access to the market in the capital Dili. Peter realized that the seasonal produce production, broccoli, beans, lettuce, tomatoes etc, wasn’t enough to sustain farmers. Coffee could compliment their incomes too.

The washing station he runs is in its infancy but a community is coalescing around it, and the coffees are cupping well! We hope to land new crop East Timor coffee November or December this year.

We need to wait for the highest altitude coffees to be processed, and during my visit there was still cherry on the trees in these zones. Once those are processed, cupping and final selection can occur - Thompson

  1. Timor No Leste

    Spirit of Independence

    Small statues in the rural areas celebrate the independence fighters who forced Indonesia to withdraw.

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  2. Timor No Leste

    The Hilton of Haupu

    Haupu is the Suku, the tribal area, where the station is situated

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  3. Timor No Leste

    Drying Beds

    The Haupu station has drying beds for washed and natural coffee.

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  4. Timor No Leste

    Outdoor cupping

    Adjacent to the patio, built for the old washing station that was here, we cupped inside of the original fermentation tank!

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  5. Timor No Leste

    Soccer Break

    After cupping, a super fun soccer game with the local kids using a ball Peter had brought up.

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  6. Timor No Leste

    Moka Cherry

    Moka is basically Hybrido de Timor coffee, HdT. This was the natural cross of arabica and robusta

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  7. Timor No Leste

    Dogs of Coffee

    There are many dogs in Timor, and sad to say this is a place where they have been eaten in the past. Now owners put a collar on dogs to designate ownership and let people know "don't eat my dog!"

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  8. Timor No Leste

    Sorting Coffee Lequisala

    Buying of cherry just started here, and will be processed at Haupu station

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  9. Timor No Leste

    Talking coffee

    We met a local trader late. in the afternoon, talking coffee over the parchment an casting long shadows

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  10. Timor No Leste

    Taxi Truck

    Nothing goes empty here, and trucks hauling goods up to the mountain towns become taxis on the way back.

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  11. Timor No Leste

    Land Cruiser Love

    We went up to the highlands of Taurema, and definitely need 4wd to get there.

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  12. Timor No Leste

    Taurema Coffee

    There is still a lot of coffee to harvest up at the high altitudes. The farmer here, Mario de Dios on the left, planted these trees 4 years ago.

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  13. Timor No Leste

    Taurema Farmers and Domingos

    Domingos, left, actually owns the Haupa tribal property for the station, and is well known as a former guerilla fighter for independence. He has stories!

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  14. Timor No Leste

    Goodbye Taurema and Timor

    Evening falls on the small village of Taurema, and man it gets cold when the light fades. We were invited for coffee and dinner in one of the old houses.

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