East Timor - Changing Perceptions

One thing you can always be sure of in speciality coffee is that one day, you will be proved wrong.

Whether it’s research that disproves a brewing technique you’ve stood by for years or a brand of equipment performing way above what you thought it was capable of, eventually you’ll have to accept the results.

When it comes to specific origins, and sometimes even whole areas of a continent, some people have preconceived ideas that will result in said origins being written off due to a bad past experience. This is understandable as we’re all keen to avoid drinking nasty coffee.
It doesn’t however mean that we as coffee drinkers, roasters and baristas shouldn’t make an effort to understand why coffee tastes the way it does from lesser known origins, and in turn to be more open minded when choosing a coffee for your roastery or cafe.  

Recently at HCR we cupped a number of samples from East Timor, sourced by Falcon Coffees. We knew that if an importer with a reputation for quality such as Falcon were proud to sell these coffees, that these coffees would be worth trying, that didn’t however stop some preconceived ideas about South East Asian coffees creeping in.  

A common viewpoint within some areas of the speciality coffee is that South East Asian coffees are generally quite unpleasant, often with tasting notes such as tobacco, leather and red pepper, and also having a high chance of being quite aged.  
Whilst my past cupping experience would confirm this to often be the case, I’m always intrigued by coffees from areas that don’t get much attention.

All I can say is that I will never assume anything about a specific origin again.

These East Timor coffees were incredibly sweet and balanced, possessing a bright raspberry acidity with notes of sweet milk chocolate. There was a subtle hint of that umami quality we expect from this part of the world, but it was balanced and sat perfectly within the flavour profile.

It was close in flavour profile to perhaps a washed Central American coffee, but with a slight twist.

I found myself thinking that the umami quality is part of this coffees identity, it just took this level of balance and sweetness for me to really enjoy it, and therefore understand that it may of just been the quality (or choice) of the processing that has been holding some of these origins back until now.  

This coffee from Duhoho Village bucks the “Giling Basah” processing trend commonly found in East Timor and Indonesia.

The Giling Basah method results in the coffees retaining a much higher moisture content, which can result in unpleasant savoury flavours and highly accelerated ageing. Coupled with a more relaxed selection process and you have your classic Sumatra style coffee.
You can read a bit more about how this process works at sweetmarias.com

This coffee from Duhoho Village has been meticulously selected with only fully ripe cherries making the cut, which are then floated to remove insect damaged cherries. The coffee is essentially wet processed much in the same way as an African coffee, resulting in a much more stable moisture content and a cleaner, sweeter cup.  

With more high quality Chinese, Myanmarese and Indonesian coffees appearing on the market, it’s time to set aside those preconceived ideas about certain origins.

As our niche corner of the coffee industry exponentially grows, we are lucky to have the freedom to pick and choose which parts of the world we want to buy from.
With that in mind we would do well to open our minds and attempt to understand local farming practises, and in turn support the growers and importers who are making a concerted effort to improve quality.

Keep an eye on our website for more arrivals from new and unusual origins!