Coffee was introduced to East Timor in the 1860s by the Portuguese. It quickly became a major export (overtaking sandalwood), and by the mid-1860’s accounted for at least 50% of the value of total exports from the colony. All of this production, however, was owned by a handful of Portuguese landowners, and local communities were only involved in harvesting. When, in the mid-1970s, Indonesia took control of the land, coffee became less of a focus and East Timor’s coffee production significantly declined with the loss of farming skills and left a legacy of aged trees. Since independence in 2002, the coffee sector has been quickly rebuilt, and coffee now accounts for some 80% of East Timor’s total exports and is the country’s only cash crop, grown by almost 1/3rd of Timorese households.
A factor that makes the East Timor coffee notable when it comes to coffee is that, in addition to grow arabica and robusta, the country has its own hybrid coffee variety – the Timor Hybrid – which dates back to the pre-WWII period. Timor Hybrid was born of the spontaneous mating of a Robusta and Arabica plant and is a highly disease resistant and high yielding variety that has now been planted around the world. Timor Hybrid also forms the backbone of the well-known Catimor and Sarchimor varieties.
The country is steadily increasing quality of its coffee, which is passively organic, as fertilizers and pesticides have never been introduced, and 100% of the coffee is shade grown. Most of the produce is used for exporting, but there is a great number of Cafés offering signature Timorese coffee in Dili, and the districts.
Coffee is grown in Timor-Leste’s steep highlands and the coffee forests with their large shade tree canopies now cover an estimated 52,000 ha. During the main harvest, June to August, you’ll see the Timorese picking the red coffee cherries and if travelling in the producing areas you’ll need to veer around patches drying in the sunshine on the road edge. Ermera accounts for half of Timor-Leste’s coffee production with other important areas being Ainaro, Maubisse,Aileu, Manufahi, Liquica and Bobonaro.
Mission and Vision
vision of becoming a voluntary membership association, working together for the East Timor coffee industry to increase volume and improve the value of coffee sold. for export and domestic consumption.
We are a non-profit organisation consisting of and headed by a group of like-minded individuals and companies with a passion for coffee. Since the association’s inception in 2016, we have built a member- ship base of baristas, roasters, traders, exporters, and farmers. Each member – individual or organisa- tion – plays a critical role in the coffee value chain and the specialty movement in Timorese coffee.
As a group, we hope to strengthen our relationship with Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, pave new channels to specialty coffee markets, and develop a competitive brand of coffee and coffee professionals.
To do this, ACT focuses on optimising value and quality in coffee production. Timor produces coffee across 8 of the 12 districts and as of 2019 proudly presented 40 different samples of specialty grade coffee – the highest scoring over 86 points.
Despite a global pandemic that resulted in a decline in volume demand for coffee and travel restrictions that has deterred international visitors, buyers and consultants from Timor-Leste, the country proves again it’s resilence during uncertain times. The foundations set since ACTs inception makes passionate coffee producers determined to overcome any challange and continue the effort for coffee quality.
Email: [email protected]