Timor-Leste Eratoi Ermera Fully Washed Raised Bed Crown Jewel

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We’ve been keeping an eye on East-Timorese coffees all season—the quality has been up across the board this year—and selected this fully washed, raised-bed-dried coffee for our Crown Jewel assessment (there are companion lots available as 30kg bags, as well). It’s elegant and clean, with distinct rose and violet floral overtones which are matched in kind by gentle stone fruit flavors like apricot and nectarine—a very nice example of some of the best coffee produced on this tiny island nation.

The island of Timor rests just a couple hundred miles northwest of Australia, and is split between the sovereignty of the nation of Indonesia on the west and, since 2002, the independent Timor-Leste on the east. Modern Timor-Leste was until very recently the world’s most coffee dependent nation. Green coffee export accounted for nearly 70% of the nation’s GDP as recently as 2006. However, after cancelling a controversial agreement with Australia, Timor-Leste now retains a significantly higher proportion of its petroleum revenue, making that the country’s leading export product. East Timor is now the world’s most oil-dependent nation.

This coffee comes to us from Café Brisa Serena, a social enterprise established by Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) in 2003. PWJ came to Timor in 1999 in the midst of a humanitarian catastrophe, generations in the making. After Portuguese and Japanese occupation, the nation of Indonesia claimed the island from 1975 onwards, stoking guerrilla warfare and a major refugee crisis. By 1999, international support for Timor-Leste’s independence won out, and aid came flowing to the island’s beleaguered residents.

Café Brisa Serena now works with over 400 farming households, primarily in and around Letefoho, the administrative outpost in the municipal district of Ermera, near the center of the island. They provide agronomic support and quality service, a greenhouse for parchment conditioning, access to international markets, and even a roastery to improve the local coffee consumption culture as well. You can read a recent interview with Armando de Araujo of Café Brisa Serena here.

This microlot is sourced from a community of 15 smallholder farmers in the Eratoi village, each of whom grow coffee on less than 1 hectare of land. Their names are Abel de Oliveira Pinto, Abrao de Deus, Eduardo L. Pereira, Joao da Costa Soares, David Soares, Domingos de Deus II, Miguel Lemos, Adolfo de Deus, Jose Mariano de Jesus, Agusto de Deus, Joao Felisberto de Deus, Manuel de Deus, Agostinho de Deus, Orlando de Deus, and Miguel da Graca.

Characterized by a fairly large screen size and density, this coffee is refreshingly well-dried. It shouldn’t present much trouble either in the roaster or on the shelf.

The island of Timor has a long history of coffee production, dating to Portuguese and Dutch colonial occupation in the 18th century (the border of which still stands as the modern division between the two halves of the island). Typica would have been introduced early on via colonial powers, brought to nearby Java from the Malabar Coast of India in 1699. This legacy variety would last for over 100 years as the only globally cultivated plant outside of Yemen and Ethiopia.

Under assault from a wave of coffee leaf rust in the late 19th century, robusta was introduced to the island, and Timor famously gave rise to a spontaneous interspecific hybrid of arabica and robusta, known simply as the Timor Hybrid, Híbrido de Timor, or HdT. To this day, HdT is the genetic base ingredient for disease resistant coffees across the world, the most popular of which are grouped into Sarchimors and Catimors.

This week I roasted on the Quest with a profile from one of my favorite coffee roasters, Gabe Boscana of Maquina Coffee. What feels like millions of years ago, Gabe hired me to roast at Ecco Caffe in Santa Rosa, California and it was there that I really learned how to cup for roast profile and how to communicate with other roasters. For the last two years Gabe has been using a Quest as a sample roaster and I was keen to learn his approach.

With a small batch size of 100 grams, the charge temperature is lower than you might think at 350F.  Using a low charge temperature allows me to use the highest amperage and fan speed settings at the beginning of the roast. At this pace the coffee begins to yellow just before the 3 minute mark. For a sample roast, Gabe suggests cutting the amperage (heat) by 50% at first crack and then allow the coffee to continue roasting until you reach the desired degree of roast.

I really enjoy roast profiles that are more simple in their approach, especially on such a small roaster where I may need to produce multiple roasts. This coffee in particular cracked a slightly later than I expected and with all of the built up momentum from the high heat roast I quickly sailed to a high end temperature. The larger screen size combined with the higher density needed a slightly longer roast to achieve good sugar browning balance. There was a very bright and tart acidity with lots of green apple and white grape notes. This particularly clean coffee was also very floral in nature. The second phase of the roast between yellow and first crack was particularly short at 1:39. To lengthen this time and achieve more balanced flavor I recommend reducing the amperage (heat) to 50% much earlier, around 350F or 30 seconds after yellowing occurs.

Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.

Back to the Behmor after a short hiatus! I felt compelled to roast this coffee specifically since my friend Hiro was the one who introduced me to these producers. I’m glad not only for the opportunity to bring these new producers from Cafe Brisa Serena into the fold, but also for the opportunity to roast our favorite of the microlots that arrived.

I wanted to bring out the deep sweetness in the Eratoi lot through this roast. My approach was the standard full power and fast drum speed from the outset, with a reduction to 50% power (the P3 button in manual mode) 45 seconds after first crack. This was roughly halfway through my post-crack development time. If I were to change anything, I would engage 50% power closer to first crack in order to develop the aromatics in this coffee a bit more slowly. My roast lost some of the delicate violet florals in this coffee, but I did achieve the sugary sweetness I was looking for.

The lower moisture content and water activity in this coffee point to a long shelf life, but you’ll need to watch carefully for overdevelopment due to a faster crack and quicker post-crack development window. Try ramping down the heat right before crack for best results. This coffee moves quick.

On the cupping table we found deep chocolate, molasses, green apple, and vanilla. An eminently quaffable coffee!

It’s been some time since we had a coffee from East Timor on the Crown Jewel slate; but this washed coffee from Eratoi village was so delightfully tasty we couldn’t let it slip by. On the cupping table there were lots of caramelized sugars, but also a hint of candied apple; this told me that there was hope for juiciness and some acidity.

The flat bottomed Kalita was my weapon of choice for this brew. I wanted to pull as many fruit acids as possible out of the coffee while maintaining the delicious sweetness of those caramelized sugars. Starting with a 1:15 ratio, the first cup revealed a sludgy brew bed, which explained the very slow draw down. Tasting notes included white grape, flowers, and vanilla, but also had some tannic notes that indicated over extraction.

Coarsening the EK by a half notch, I used precise and delicate pours in my second brew. The sludginess of the brew bed indicated lots of particulate clogging up the grounds and preventing even drainage. With careful pours and my trusty Stagg kettle from Fellow, this second brew revealed a perfectly flat bed and shaved about 30 seconds off my total brew time. In the cup we found delicious notes of cherry, orange, marmalade, rose water, and white grape, along with the sweetness of vanilla pods and dried dates.