Are you looking to explore authentic coffee culture, to take a journey from bean to cup, engaging with local coffee producers as they harvest and process Timor-Leste’s renowned coffee? Perhaps you just want to find a place to escape from your busy daily life to a quieter, more relaxing place in the midst of stunning scenery? All this will be possible with a weekend getaway to Ermera on a coffee tour package offered by Café Brisa Serena (“CBS”). Cafe Brisa Serena is a subsidiary of a local social enterprise established by Peace-Winds Japan to improve the livelihood of coffee farmers through an income generation program, to add value to the coffee product and to promote high quality Timor-Leste coffee in the domestic and international market.
Dili residents and many people who have visited Timor-Leste will be familiar with Café Letefoho and will have tasted the coffee at Letefoho Specialty Coffee Roaster on the beachfront in Dili. The coffee served here is freshly-roasted and served, for maximum aroma and flavor. First opened as a specialty coffee roaster in June 2014, the Café set out to promote Timor-Leste coffee sourced directly from producers in Letefoho, Ermera. Since then, this small Café has attracted many international visitors and local people, offering a unique coffee experience in Timor-Leste through different coffee brewing methods prepared by expert baristas at the cafe. As the number of visitors increased, demand grew for visits to coffee farms for an in-depth experience of local coffee culture at the origin.
The coffee tourism niche has great potential to help Timor-Leste to develop its local economy by attracting visitors to cafes and farms. In June 2020, during the global pandemic with international tourism at a standstill, Café Brisa Serena (a subsidiary local Social enterprise established by Peace-Winds Japan) identified a new opportunity to work with coffee producers, youth and local women entrepreneurs who run Guest Houses in Letefoho. They combined coffee tours with a yoga retreat in collaboration with Dili Ashtanga Yoga, to create a package, initially aimed at attracting domestic and expatriate visitors to the region during coffee harvest season in 2020. During coffee harvest season, visitors can book trips to coffee farms and engage directly with farmers to pick coffee cherries, try their hand at coffee processing, and enjoy the traditional coffee roasting and brewing process, right at the farm where it was grown.
The Letefoho Coffee Tour is not only about taking visitors to visit a coffee farm. The aim is to give visitors the opportunity to see and experience directly how coffee is produced, to learn where the coffee they consume comes from and how every cup of coffee purchased has an impact on coffee producers’ lives and people within the coffee value chain, and promote sustainable tourism. While visiting coffee farms, visitors can spend their weekend staying at community guest house or accommodation run by Cafe Brisa Serena, explore the neighborhood, visit local markets which take place every Wednesday and Saturday, local tea plantation. They can also spend additional time visiting the spectacular “Mota Bandeira“ waterfall in Atsabe and other local tourism attractions with local tour guides.
“We are happy to create business and employment opportunities for youth and women in Letefoho, support local businesses and help farmers to generate additional income from visits to their coffee farms”, Café Brisa Serena (Business Development Manager) Jonia Leite Soares explained, “It is also great to learn through this tourism initiative and with the small capital we have invested. Café Brisa Serena have been able to attract many visitors in 2020 and run this initiative with great collaboration with guest house owners in Letefoho, youth and women from the community, and other business working to support promotion for Timor-Leste Tourism”.
Maria Silvina Babo “Silvia”, 27 years old, is a local chef and guest house assistant at Café Letefoho Guest House. She is very happy with her job since she is able to learn basic skills in hospitality and tourism from her work and make a living from the money she earns. Through on-the-job training organized by CBS, she has been able to learn how to organise and prepare food for guest and using available seasonal local ingredients to promote local food, welcome guests, and has been developing skills in brewing coffee with the team of baristas at Letefoho Specialty Coffee Roaster. Now, she is also training other other staff in food preparation and is actively involved with youth tourism group from Letefoho. She is also working closely with Café Letefoho barista Laurentina Babo aka Rina, who has also been working tirelessly to organize coffee farm tours and visits to other tourism attractions in the region.
In 2021, this activity is on hold, with the outbreak of local community transmission in Ermera which resulted in the cancelation of bookings. But all of the Cafe Brisa Serena partners are working hard to prepare safety measures and to develop their skills in readiness to resume their activities once the pandemic is under control. They are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to coffee country when the time is right.
To find out more about Café Letefoho and Café Brisa Serena, visit their website at here