Not many people can boast about sharing a cup of coffee with a President, but as Intrepid’s Jane Crouch can attest, anything’s possible in the incredible new nation of Timor-Leste…
“I had my first ever cup of coffee 8 years ago, and I’m sure I will remember it for a lifetime! It was short, dark and strong and served to me by the then Foreign Minister, and now President, Jose Ramos-Horta at his home in Timor-Leste. It was May, 2003, and I was accompanying our first group of Intrepid travellers to the newly independent nation. We all learned from Ramos-Horta about his enthusiasm for Timor’s coffee – its prized, mostly Fair Trade, Arabica beans.
Eight years on, Intrepid groups continue to be treated like VIPs and welcomed wholeheartedly around this spectacular country. Whether in the cafes of Dili, or in a simple village home at the foot of the highest mountain, Mt Ramelau, the local beans are brewed and served with relish. The coffee tastes extra good after a dawn ascent to see the sunrise from the 2964 metre (9724 feet) high summit, and helps keep us going as we head for the south coast town of Suai.
On the way up to the mountains we pass through the sometimes mist shrouded coffee plantations. They are mostly planted in the shade of towering acacia trees, and locals are convinced that this shading brings the coffee its superior qualities.
Producing and picking the coffee is a family affair. There are said to be more than 22,000 coffee farming families involved with the biggest cooperative, Cooperativa Cafe Timor (CCT), from this nation of only 1.1 million people. They are reputed to be the largest supplier of organic coffee in the world and sell much of their coffee to Starbucks!
During the north coast’s mid-year dry season, we will witness the picking and see the sun-drying of beans by the road side, particularly in the central mountainous region. And many are personally exported by Intrepid travellers, filling up the last space in their hand baggage with packets of coffee from Dili airport’s departure lounge. A wonderful reminder of their Timor experience after returning home and a welcome gift for friends”
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* photo by Jane Crouch