For a second year running, we're delighted to bring you coffee grown by the smallholder producers of Malabe village in Timor-Leste. This time round we have selected a stunning natural processed lot of híbrido de timor and typica. In the cup it is round, juicy and super sweet, and reminds us of cookie dough and raspberry ripple ice cream.
The coffee here grows in the forests; shaded, untouched, and organic by default. The coffee is hand-picked when ripe, and collected daily for processing at Raw Material’s wet mill and processing centre in nearby Atsabe.
Having found its sovereignty in 2002, Timor-Leste is one of the world’s youngest countries. As its oil reserves begin to run dry, the development of the agriculture sector is rapidly becoming an important pillar for the structural transformation of the country’s economy, and coffee is set to become Timor-Leste's most vital export.
The municipality of Ermera is home to the largest coffee production volumes, but almost 60% of the municipality's population live below the poverty line. Productivity, however, is extremely low, alongside profitability which is both low and volatile. This is because almost all coffee is sold on the commodity market for a discounted “C” price. Our importing partner, Raw Material, met with groups of producers in villages across Atsabe to learn how the coffee market has served them in recent history.
On the back of these meetings, Raw Material and the producers developed a plan for a more prosperous future, that included: (1) sustainably raising and maintaining the quality of Atsabe’s coffee predictably above 80 points, (2) connecting with those roasters who want to commit long-term, and (3) systematically solving the many challenges that can obstruct the route to the speciality market, including financial, legal, cultural, infrastructure, and technical challenges.
Raw Material built its first custom wet mill and processing centre in Atsabe in April 2018, with a view to improving the quality of the coffee grown, and allowing the farmers to access the much higher prices commanded by the speciality coffee market. Raw Material drew on their experience working in other coffee-producing countries to combine elements that would most likely improve Ermera’s coffee quality given the unique set of challenges facing the region.
Each section of the mill uses materials that are local, and readily available. The mill uses gravity to move coffee through the various processing stages, which means no double-handling, and no unnecessary machinery. The mill serves not only as a central hub for processing the cherry of the producers Raw Material work with across Ermera, but also as a meeting point for the village chiefs and neighbourhood leaders. It also serves as a hub for training courses in both cultivation, picking, and processing for local producers.