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Timor-Leste: One Coffee, Two Processes

  • 3 min read


We’re super excited to present to you two brand new coffee’s, featuring the fantastic Eratoi from Timor-Leste, processed as both Washed and Natural. This is an amazing opportunity to explore how processing affects the flavour profile of coffee, but first let’s take a deep dive and learn a bit more about where this coffee comes from.


Timor-Leste is a small tropical island nation situated in South East Asia. It gained its independence on the 28th November 2002, making it the first new country of this millennium, ending four centuries of Portuguese colonisation and 25 years of Indonesian occupation. With the assistance of international aid, local NGOs and certain factions of the private sector, capacity building has been identified as an essential focus to facilitate the Timorese people in developing their country and establishing itself as its own autonomous state after years of unsettlement.

Outwith the volatile oil and gas sector, agriculture is the mainstay economy of Timor-Leste. Coffee is the main cash crop and is also its largest exported good. Coffee plants were first brought to Timor-Leste in the early 19th century by the Portuguese and grown wild in the mountainous regions of the central highland districts, flourishing underneath the shade of their natural tree canopies. Well known to be organic by default, Timor-Leste is possibly the only country in the world that produces exclusively organically grown coffee.

Now that we’ve learned a bit about where this coffee comes from, let's take a closer look at how the farmers of Eratoi grow their coffee, and take a detailed look at how these coffee’s are processed.

The Coffee

Located at an altitude of 1800 masl, the coffee of Eratoi grows in amongst the coffee forests surrounded by the imposing Ai-Samtuku shade trees. These trees provide the coffee with a good balance of sun and shade, which allows the coffee to grow and mature slowly, leading to increased sweetness when harvested and processed. 

The group led by Simao Pedro de Deus, has steadily grown and now consists of 25 small smallholder farmers, all hailing from previous generations of coffee farmers. With a strong sense of unity, the farmers' shared goal is to produce high quality specialty coffee. Through this consolidated mindset, the Eratoi group continues to consistently produce delicious coffee year on year.

Natural Process 

Even though the fully-washed process is the most common in Timor-Leste, our import partners have been experimenting with the farmers of Eratoi in processing natural coffee. With the skills gained from already producing high quality and well processed washed coffee, lead farmer Simao Pedro de Deus hopes to explore the opportunities of producing the same quality of natural processed coffee. In 2022 Simao tried processing a nano lot of natural coffee for the very first time, taking control of the drying himself and ensuring that only the ripest of red cherries were selected. As with their fully-washed coffee, the cherries are sifted to remove any that are overly small and then washed and floated to remove any defects. The cherries then undergo a 12 hour anaerobic fermentation, having yielded good results from experimenting the previous year. With this in mind, the cherries are then placed into sealed Ecotact bags overnight and the next morning, they are placed out to dry on raised drying beds. The drying of the coffee is carried out in 2 phases. The first phase sees the coffee cherries spread thinly and dried in the sun until the moisture is reduced from 68% to 25%. For the second phase the cherries are deeply layered for 15-20 days and are dried from 25% to 9.5% moisture. Once this optimum moisture level is achieved, the cherries are then rested for 6 weeks before the final hulling process takes place. 

Washed Process

All Eratoi group members follow the same processing methods, paying careful attention to ensuring that only the ripest cherries are picked and processed. Once harvested, each farmer will then hand sort and sieve their cherries to remove any defects or overly small cherries. The next step involves floating the cherries in a tank to further remove any defects, with low density beans floating to the surface and removed for being under ripe or insect damaged. The farmers then take the mucilage covered seeds and ferment them, 20kg at a time, for between 40-42 hours, allowing the natural sugars to break down. Traditionally, farmers know when the fermentation process is complete when the coffee feels “Scratchy”, similar to when two pebbles are rubbed together. The farmers confirm the fermentation process is complete by using pH meters to ensure the sweet spot has been achieved. Finally, the coffee is fully washed before being dried on raised drying beds for 7-10 days and checked regularly until it reaches an ideal moisture content of 10-12%.