June's Roaster's Choice Coffee Box subscribers will be enjoying Laclo, a coffee from Timor-Leste.
Ermera is one of thirteen municipalities in Timor-Leste and is the largest in terms of volumes of coffee produced. It is here in the town of Atsabe that, our green coffee partners, Raw Material, established the Atsabe coffee mill in 2018 which now receives and processes cherry from the surrounding villages. During the coffee harvest, between 80 and 150 farming families (supporting around 500 people in total) from the villages of Laclo (of which there are four sub villages) will sell their cherry to the Atsabe miill for processing. The mill itself is designed and built in-house with the participation of neighborhood leaders and local chiefs and draws on learnings from similar ventures by Raw Materi-al in Colombia to create optimum quality with limited resource. The mill uses locally, and readily, available materials and utilises gravity to move cherry though the phases of processing thus circumventing the need for expensive equipment.
The mill also serves as an education hub and regularly facilitates classes for farmers on cultivation, picking and processing as well as doubling as a meeting venue for local community events. In the cup we found this coffee characterised by very clean green apple acidity which transforms towards a softer sweeter honeydew melon as the flavour evolves.
The importance of coffee in Timor-Leste
The importance of coffee in Timor-Leste cannot be overstated. As traditional incomes from oil dry up and infrastructure is scarce the country is turning to agriculture as a way of sustaining livelihoods. Coffee presents a unique opportunity and has been adopted as the primary source of income by some 37% of Timor-Leste’s citizens. Specialty coffee trade has the potential to rapidly improve livelihoods in producing communities and while we’ve seen this continually proved as the industry thrives in Europe Timor-Leste seem to have been left behind. Without access to infrastructure and education both productivity and quality have remained low and uncompetitive in Timor-Leste. This has prohibited producers from accessing specialty markets and instead exposes sellers to low and volatile market places that perpetuate poverty cycles. Ermera for example, the largest coffee producing municipality in Timor-Leste, has a staggering 57% of its population living below the poverty line.
New Zealand based company, Raw Material, who we’ve partnered with extensively in Colombia and also Mexico have focused their efforts to-date on Ermera for this reason. Since 2018 the shared processing mill has been fully operational and, as it can facilitate consistently high quality coffees, has meant prices that sustain development can be paid to producers. In addition the team have set up a 5 day coffee farming training course with 11hrs of accompanying video tutorials. On April 4th 2021 devastating floods left 14,000 people homeless and without shelter in Timor-Leste. While some support exists around the capital of Dili regional and coffee growing communities remain in urgent need of help. For information on the relief efforts visit https://donorbox.org/timor-leste-floods-urgent-appeal/ .