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The Story of East Timorese Coffee

Coffee has been grown in East Timor since colonial times under the Portuguese. By 1865 coffee accounted for over 50% of the value of exports from the colony. Under Indonesian rule, Timorese coffee growers were forced to sell their produce through a company owned by the military at lower than standard world prices. Indonesian militias destroyed much of East Timor’s coffee industry after the 1999 referendum, but it is quickly rebuilding with international assistance.

Although East Timor accounts for less than 1% of the world’s coffee production, coffee is currently the country’s major export commodity and provides a substantial income for nearly a quarter of the population.

Most coffee grown in East Timor (about 80%) is the high-quality arabica variety and has the added advantage of being grown organically. Some of the crop is processed using “wet-milling” or washing, by which the beans are separated from the fruit of pulp within 24 hours of being picked. The beans are then soaked in water to remove the mucous membrane layer before they are sun-dried. This process adds substantially to the value of the coffee.

The traditional and more common method is to sun-dry the cherries after they are harvested then remove the pulp and sell the beans for further processing in another country.

After initial “wet milling” or dry processing the majority of the crop is sent to Indonesia for further processing. Between 85-90% of Timorese crop is exported.

Depending on how it is processed, growers may receive from US$1 per 0.10kg to US$1 per 0.70kg. A recent World Bank estimate gave the annual cash income for an average coffee-producing family of six people as US$200 of which 90% comes from coffee.

Source: Friends of Bacau

Timorcorp – A leading coffee producer

Timorcorp was formed in July 2000 by Kenny Lay as a direct result of desire to give something back to his native mother country, and repeated requests by leading East Timorese officials for advice and and expertise in developing the small emerging nation’s coffee industry in the international market place.

The business is primarily focused on providing high quality processed raw coffee beans grown in East Timor for export to the world, and is now in a position where it has clearly established itself as the leading exporter of Timorese grown coffee to the international marketplace.

Contact Info:

Address: Delta 1, Rainakadoko Dom Aleixo, Dili, Timor-Leste

Tel: (+670) 332 2502

Fax: (+670) 332 2502

Cooperativa Café Timor

In an effort to boost East Timor’s economic growth and raise incomes for farming families, USAID has supported the work of the Cooperativa Café Timor, a federation of Timorese owned cooperatives that produce and export premium organic coffee. The Cooperativa Café Timor and its sister cooperatives count more than 20,000 member families who grow coffee, the country’s most valuable export.

Since first starting to work with USAID in 2000, the cooperativa has opened a training academy for crop diversification, provided business training to entrepreneurs, developed export markets, and opened trade links with neighboring Indonesia.

Coffee remains a major crop in East-Timor, with exports totaling $7 million in 2004. The cooperative has significantly improved global market opportunities for coffee crops. For instance, it has earned organic and Fair Trade certifications, enabling members to demand higher prices for their coffee. One of the cooperative’s largest coffee buyers is Starbucks, which sells the Arabian Mocha Timor blend around the world.

The Cooperativa Café Timor has now become a self-sustaining business model for coffee production and export activities. USAID’s assistance is part of an effort to help East Timor diversify and increase agricultural production and expand both domestic and international markets for its products.

Source: USAID

For more on CCT see:
Co-op Coffees
Coffee Habitat

Where to buy East Timorese Coffee in Australia

East Timor coffee blend – decaffeinated, universal grind, or beans – is available from the Friends of Same at $7 per 250g pack. Resellers set their own price.
The website includes a list of Victorian retailers which sell East Timor Coffee.
Contact: Bruce Butler, Friends of Same.

Tradewinds tea and coffee is a not for profit organisation that imports fair trade, organic and locally packaged coffee from East Timor. It’s sold only through mail order and a few select shops – see Trade Winds for details.

East Timor coffee is sold by the Friends of Aileu in Victoria for $6.50 per 250g pack. It is available by phoning 9240 1111, or from any of Moreland and Hume Councils’ citizens’ service centres. All proceeds go to the community of Aileu in East Timor.

The Friends of Baucau in Victoria also sell East Timor coffee blend at $6.50 per 250g pack at all Customer Service Centres in the Yarra and Darebin local government areas and it is soon to be available through all Libraries and Leisure Centres in Darebin and Yarra. 50% of the proceeds go to Friends of Baucau projects to help East Timor.
Contact: Clare Murrell.

Starbucks is one of the largest purchasers of Fairtrade Certified coffees in the world. The East Timorese blend offered in Australia is Timor Lorosa’e. Further information on Starbucks’ involvement and support of the East Timorese coffee industry can be found on its website. A short video on Starbucks’ work with Co-operative Cafe Timor can be found here.

Oxfam stores around Australia sell East Timor Fair Trade Organic coffee.

Fair Trade Coffee Company in Glebe, Sydney make their own blend of coffee, Sacred Grounds, that contain East Timor fair trade beans. They are operated by Palms Australia and proceeds contribute towards volunteer programs in developing countries including East Timor.

We would love to hear from any other groups who sell East Timorese coffee. Please contact us so that we may feature your group on this page.