Rotutu Returns | Why Timor-Leste's Specialty Coffee is on the Rise

Rotutu Returns | Why Timor-Leste's Specialty Coffee is on the Rise

Over the last few years, we have been very fortunate to have made some great relationships in the coffee industry. These relationships with producers and importers mean that we can have as close a link as possible to the people behind the coffee – all with a view to having a bigger and better impact at origin. These relationships also allow us to explore new coffee-growing regions, like Timor-Leste, for example.

Karst Organics Coffee Sack

We're very pleased to work with Karst Organics, which exclusively exports specialty-grade Timorese coffee. Kar-Yee and Stewart have guided us through the landscape of Timorese coffee – figuratively, so far, but we hope to visit soon! Their approach is to build long-term relationships with their partner farmers, and they spend the entirety of the harvest season on the farms. As a result, they can better understand the expectations, communities, and needs of the coffee producers they work with. This investment of time also allows them to respond to needs as they arise and offer support where necessary - vital for the continued improvement of their specialty coffee.

We first showcased Rotutu in 2022 and were blown away by its delicate qualities and complexity – the sort that reminded us of sought-after washed East African coffees. Part of our decision to work with Karst was to showcase that Asian coffees have much more to offer than the standard profile that people expect – the earthy, tobacco-like qualities of Indonesian wet-hulled coffees, for example. The care and attention that goes into producing Rotutu is evident, and from our conversations with Kar-Yee, Stewart and the producers themselves, it's clear to see that there's more than just a desire to produce tasty coffee.

Members of the Rotutu Cooperative processing coffee beans

Part of the reason for this is that Timorese culture is heavily influenced by animism - the belief that all living things possess a spiritual essence. In a country where the vast majority of people rely on subsistence farming, there is a particular pride and respect in the relationship that Timorese coffee producers have in their work. Coffee plays a huge role in Timorese culture and is a part of almost every social occasion.

The approach that Karst Organics take with their purchasing model means that premiums are paid back to the producers. They pay some of the highest prices for coffee cherry, and with the Rotutu cooperative, buying large volumes of cherry also allows for better quality control. This also means that 8 new jobs have been created to assist in processing during the harvest. In a country where unemployment continues to be a national concern, Karst Organics firmly believes that providing employment within the emerging coffee sector in East Timor is crucial to the development of this fledgling country’s economy.

Mountainous coffee producing area in Timor-Leste

At the end of the day, Karst Organics prides itself on being 100% transparent with its purchasing models and the costs involved. By purchasing Rotutu from Karst Organics, we not only get delicious coffee but also support a sustainable and fair supply chain that benefits the farmers and the economy of East Timor. As we've seen between our first purchase of Rotutu and this latest harvest - the proof of that increased quality is right there in the cup.