Timor-Leste Rotutu - Filter

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Timor-Leste Rotutu - Filter

This is one of three beautiful washed coffees we have this year from Timor-Leste. It has been great to work with Kar-Yee and Stuart again this year in bringing the taste of Timor-Leste to Lucid. We had one coffee last year as part of an exclusive subscription, so this year we had to bring more to share with you all!

This first one from Rotutu is a fruity, super sweet tasty coffee, with flavours of Nectarine, peach & raspberry tea. 

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  • Producers + Mill:

Situated in the western part of Letefoho, Rotutu is our flagship group with whom we were first introduced, back in 2017. Upon this first meeting, we recognised instantly the potential of East Timorese coffee and entered into a partnership with the community to elevate their coffee quality in order to open new opportunities in international markets, and ultimately maximise their earning potential. After 2 years of research and at the request of the community, we built the Rotutu processing facility in 2019. We then implemented a cherry purchasing model whereby the purchase price has continued to increase year on year and this year (2023) saw us purchase cherry at a 33% higher price than that of the local commercial price. Whilst we know that the highest price doesn’t always guarantee the best quality, in the case of Rotutu, this has incentivised members to take great care in selectively harvesting only the ripest red cherries for processing. Combined with the expertise of our team who we employ at the facility, together we have been able to see great improvements in the quality of the coffee which Rotutu has been producing since our partnership began.

As the coffee sector slowly develops in Letefoho, so we have learnt to evolve and are now adapting our purchasing models based on the wants and needs of the community. Starting from this year’s harvest (2023) and in addition to purchasing their cherry, we are now purchasing parchment from those households who have requested a preference to process independently. This is largely due to our parchment price acknowledging the value of labour and also the farmers themselves wishing to respect their culture and taking pride in maintaining traditional farming practices.

By distributing further materials to aid the members with their processing, we can ensure that the methods used and the quality of the parchment being processed is consistent with that of the facility. It is often thought that having centralised processing guarantees consistency in processing high quality coffee, however from our experience in the field, we can see that by implementing good controls and monitoring through weekly visits from us and our field manager – Simao Pedro de Deus, a parchment purchasing model can be as good as a processing facility. This close partnership with the members of the Rotutu group is a great example of how our work together has evolved and developed to the benefit of not only the coffee itself but our partner farmers as well.

2023 has also seen us build our first seedling nursery in Eratoi, where together with Simao, we will be looking to cultivate new coffee and shade tree seedlings. For every 10kg of green beans that we sell to our partner roasters, we will commit to planting one new coffee or shade tree seedling which will be distributed to our partner farmers (including members from Rotutu) for planting at a later date, so a big thank you to you for helping us to achieve this goal.

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  • Varieties:

Timor Hybrid (Hibido de Timor) 

HDT, which stands for Hibido de Timor, is also known as “Tim Tim”. Tim Tim in Indonesian stands for Timor Timur (East Timor in English), which used to be the 27th province of Indonesia before it declared its independence as Timor Leste.

HDT is a cross between Arabica and Robusta. It was first found in a plantation of cultivar Typica in Timor Island in 1917. It was then first collected in East Timor in 1978 and was planted in Aceh in 1979.

The variety is widely cultivated around the world today mainly for its good resistance towards leaf rust and has found extensive use as a gene source in different breeding projects with the purpose of breeding in a higher resistance towards leaf rust and other diseases. Some varieties emerging include: Catimor, Sarchimor in Brazil, Ruiru 11 in Kenya, Colombia in Colombia and Costa Rica 95 in Costa Rica. (Info source: Mercanta)

Typica

Typica (also Tipica) forms the genetic backbone of much of specialty coffee today. The first coffee plantations grown in America and Asia were of the Typica variety and many of the most widely cultivated C. arabica crops today are descended directly from the plant.

In general, Typica is very similar in appearance to the Bourbon plant (of which it is a very close relative) although it has fewer secondary branches and the leaves are normally smaller than those of Bourbon. It is usually identifiable by its bronze leaf tips. The plants are tall (3.5 – 4m) and the berries have an elongated, oval shape.

Even though Typica has a relatively low yield it is known to produce coffee with high cup quality. It is, however, very susceptible to diseases and is becoming increasingly less common for this reason. (Info source: Mercanta)

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  • Process:

We have two purchase models that we have implemented with our partner farmers. The first of these is at our
wet mill facility in Rotutu, where we have a team of locally employed staff who process our coffees and the
second is our parchment buying model which entails individual farmers from respective groups processing
coffee at their own farm/household. In both of these models, all farmers without exception will begin by selectively handpicking
only the ripest red cherries from their plantations which is labour intensive work and requires multiple harvests throughout the
season to allow those cherries that need it, a little more time to mature.

Once harvested, each farmer will then hand sort and sieve their cherries to remove any defects or overly small cherries. At this
point, cherries will be either taken to the wet mill in Rotutu where they will be weighed and payment made direct to the farmer
(2022 $0.58 per kg) or continue to be processed at individual households and later sold as dried parchment.
The cherries are then floated in a tank to further remove any defects with low density beans floating to the surface and removed
due to either being underripe or insect damaged. From here, they are then pulped (by mechanical pulping machine at our
processing facility or by a traditional hand pulping machine at individual households) to remove the skin of the cherry and the
flesh of the fruit, leaving the coffee seed covered in mucilage which is again floated for a second time to remove any ‘bad’ beans
that will float to the surface.

The mucilage covered seeds are now ready for fermentation and a ‘baldi’ is used (essentially a large bucket with a lid) to ferment
the coffee. It is incredibly important that clean and fresh water is used in this process and this usually comes directly from nearby
mountain sources which are plentiful in Letefoho. 20 kilos of coffee is fermented at a time, with the coffee left completely
immersed in water (anaerobic fermentation) for between 40 – 44 hours whilst the natural sugars in the mucilage are broken down
which contributes to the unique flavour development of our coffees.

Traditionally farmers will know that the fermentation process is complete when the coffee feels scratchy, similar to when pebbles
are rubbed together. In addition to traditional methods, we also use Ph meters to confirm when fermentation is complete and
the sweet spot for our coffee is between Ph 4.0 – 4.2. However, we have learnt over the years that a farmers’ intuition and
experience is as good a tool, if not better, than a Ph meter. Once fermentation is complete, the coffee is then washed. This is an
intense process which can require up to 8-10 washes in order to ensure that the parchment is ‘fully-washed’ and is crucial in order
to achieve the clean cup profile expected and associated with our coffees.

(Some people may not be aware that the waste water produced from this process is highly acidic and can cause great damage to
localised flora and fauna if not managed appropriately. With this in mind, the resulting waste water is collected in small channels
filled with rocks that filter the water safely back into the ground.)

After the washing process is complete, the parchment is laid out on raised African beds to dry thoroughly under the warm
Timorese sunshine. During this time, the parchment is continually turned to ensure even drying and further sorting is carried out
to remove any further defects. At our wet mill, the drying will normally take between 7-10 days and is regularly checked for
moisture by our team until reaching between 10-11%. For our parchment model, this requires weekly visits to each farmer in
person to carry out checks to ensure consistency and continuity across all groups and every individual lot (bag) is checked to
ensure that the coffee has been dried to the required level.

At this point, the parchment from our wet mill is now placed in sacks and stored in our warehouse close to our processing facility
to ensure no additional fluctuations or gains in moisture. During this time, the coffee is rested for a period of 4-6 weeks and water
activity (aW) is also monitored with a goal to reach an equilibrium of approximately aW 0.55 to ensure the best possible longevity
and freshness of the green coffee. At this time, parchment is collected from every individual household and payment made directly
at farmgate (2023 $3:25 per kg). From here, the coffee is transported to our storage facility where it is also rested for the same
time frame with both moisture content and aW closely monitored and QC continues with extensive cupping of all coffees.

After the coffee has rested, the parchment is transported to our dry hulling facility in Timor-Leste’s capital city Dili. The dry hulling
process essentially removes the layer of paper-like parchment to reveal the green bean. In addition to this, the dry hulling process
will also remove any further defect beans and grade the coffee by screen size (15/16/17). Finally, a team of 60 staff will
meticulously hand sort the beans to further remove any defects and ensure that the resulting coffee ready for export is of the
highest quality (dry processing was completed at the end of September 2023 and exported at the beginning of October and landed
into the UK in mid November).

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  • Region: Rotutu, Letefoho, East Timor
  • Producers: Rotutu Cooperative (13 farmers)
  • Importer: Karst Organics
  • Price (green ex Shipping): £7.50 p kg
  • Variety: Typica, Timor Hybrid
  • Process: Washed
  • Altitude: 1420masl
  • Amount Bought: 120kg
  • Tasting: Juicy, Crisp, high sweetness, Fruity, balanced acidity. 
  • Flavours like: Nectarine, peach & raspberry tea.