After spending many seasons on the look-out for coffee from East Timor, we finally found our match. Working closely with Karst Organics, exporters based in Dili, we received samples from the Rotutu Farmer Group in late 2019, and here we are! Launching a new origin and our very first coffee from East Timor! Rotutu.
Lucky enough to spend some time with Kar Yee and Stewart, the co-founders of Karst Organics on their last visit to the UK. We were left feeling inspired, excited, and in total awe of the fascinating work they’re doing with coffee growers in the highland districts of East Timor.
As with most coffee-growing communities, the growers of East Timor depend solely on subsistence farming for an income. To break this cycle and disrupt the typical export business model, Karst Organics offer training programs while investing in infrastructure and farms. Together, these initiatives provide financial relief and uplift the community, while ensuring long term growth in bean quality.
“We were particularly drawn to the Rotutu farmer group from Letefoho, Ermera, who spoke with such passion for their coffee and seemed so connected to their stunningly beautiful surroundings. After visiting the farms, inspecting the coffee trees, and cupping samples of their previous harvests, we believed that we had found a perfect partner for Karst Organics,” said Kar Yee.
Made up of 24 members, Kar Yee and Stewart established their partnership with the Rotutu group in 2017.
“The Rotutu farmer group were open to working with us and looking at how we could establish a partnership which would provide a more sustainable and consistent income in the long-term, whilst also ensuring the quality of the coffee is at its best. The farmers understand that each step of processing affects the quality of the bean and contributes to the final taste of the coffee itself. Together with their drive to ensure that the coffee they process is of the highest quality, and with their openness to work together with Karst Organics, we felt confident in investing in them, and developing a partnership to open up new opportunities for their coffee in the UK.”
Over the past two years, Karst Organics funded the construction of a central processing facility complete with a storage warehouse which has enabled better quality control, and improved conditions for parchment storage. They’ve also installed new water pipes from a natural water source, serving the processing facility as well as several households who previously had no access to running water. With better services, security and infrastructure, the overall standard of living has increased, allowing the farmers to do their jobs more efficiently.
“Through providing coffee processing training and rehabilitation recommendations to the farmers, we believe that the coffee the Rotutu group is now producing is some of the highest quality coffee in Timor-Leste, and will continue to improve going forward.”
When asked about their plans for the future and what they hope to achieve through Karst Organics, Kar Yee answered.
“Our ongoing plans are to continue to offer direct support and guidance during the coffee harvest and work towards further development of the processing techniques used with expansion into natural and honey processing.
Through capacity building, 2020 will see us expand our team of locally employed Karst Organics staff. They will be on hand to directly assist farmers throughout the year and work closely with them to ensure that the coffee which is being exported, is representative of the speciality coffee which Timor is becoming associated with.
The one thing which stands out the most about our coffee is the fact that we have an equal balance between the collaboration of taste and quality. We focus on the quality of the coffee, but most importantly, the quality of life for the farmers who are directly involved in producing our coffee.
We want consumers to know they are purchasing coffee from a supplier who focuses on improving the resources of their partner farmers whilst ensuring a better income for families and the community at large. With full transparency and traceability. We truly know where our coffee comes from and who has been involved in every step of the way.
Often, people mistake Timorese coffee for Indonesian coffee. We hope that this will help highlight that East Timor is independent and different from its much bigger and more established neighbour. We hope this will help East-Timorese coffee get the recognition it deserves, especially in the speciality sector. We also hope that by tasting Timorese coffee, people will be interested to learn more about East Timor itself, the challenges the Timorese people faced under Portuguese colonisation, the annexation by Indonesia, and the impact this had on its people and coffee production.”
Complex, clean and well-balanced with a gentle butterscotch sweetness combined with citrus undertones and a hint of chocolate, Rotutu is without a doubt rising to the occasion of shining a bright light on all that East Timor has to offer. Let’s raise our cups and savour the novelty of this fantastic first-time purchase and new origin. Here is to Rotutu!