Intro by Chris Kornman
Back for the second year in a row, we’re thrilled to present this lovely organic Timor-Leste coffee from a small group of producers organized around Peace Winds’ Café Brisa Serena project.
It’s a lush and sweet little coffee, soft melon and mild floral notes like chrysanthemum and vanilla accent an otherwise chocolatey coffee with a smooth viscosity and mild citrus elements. A lot of us have been comparing it to similarly mild and chuggable coffees from Mexico, El Salvador, or Honduras, but in truth it stands on its own merits. It’s accompanied this year by a few companion lots available as 30kg bags, in addition to this Crown Jewel Selection, and we’re proud to offer them as very nice examples 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 microlot is sourced from a community of 12 smallholder farmers in the Eratoi village, each of whom grow coffee on less than 1 hectare of land. It made its way to us via 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.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
This Timorese coffee comes to us with pleasantly low moisture and water activity numbers. It’s generally sorted to 16-18, perhaps a little larger than the average, and you might notice some mild coloration inconsistencies in the coffee, likely due to the inclusion of multiple producers using two very different cultivars. The coffee is fairly low in density. Plan to treat it gently early in the roast, and it might need a little extra attention as it takes on browning reactions; so keep a close eye on the roast notes below.
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 very early on via colonial powers, first 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 coffee 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. The unlikely union between the two plants, whose numbers of chromosomes don’t match, created a plant with surprising hybrid vigor and strong resilience to climate and disease. Yet it is often seen as qualitatively inferior and bred into minority percentages of other resistant hybrids.
What we have here, however, is testament to the rare but achievable possibility of specialty coffee rising from the oft-maligned hybrid. We’re very pleased to showcase it as a Crown Jewel.
Roast Analysis by Candice Madison
Honestly, I do love it when I get to roast coffee from a region that I have very little experience with! A challenge presented to both the palate and the roasting side of the brain. Cupping this coffee on arrival was like meeting an old friend for the other Crownies, and a wonderfully new experience for me.
I usually like to roast against a ‘standard’ curve when using data logging software, as I am a visual learner, primarily. This doesn’t mean I try to tie any of the new coffees against a previous curve, moreso that I can pay less attention to looking at time/temperature/RoC and more time smelling, listening, and looking at what the coffee is doing during our 6-8 minute dance, in addition to concentrating on how that particular coffee is responding to the changes I am making. When I go back and look at the new coffee’s roast curve against the reference, they are usually distinct to at least some degree. Astonishingly (to me) this coffee literally mirrored my example curve, and needed only two gas changes to achieve this weird accomplishment!
I have established a protocol for our Probatino, having worked with her for almost a year now; my charge weight is 400g – a reasonable batch size that gives me a lot of room to maneuver throughout each analysis, a charge temperature of 360F, usually a minimum gas application at start, a higher gas application just after equilibrium and a target time to first crack of between 5-7 minutes (small machine, small batch, shorter roast – my preference). I aim for an end temperature of 401 and a development of between 13 – 17% depending on the coffee and specifically on this machine for analysis purposes.
The Timor-Leste Organic Eratoi Ermera performed almost exactly to this standard. I dropped it into the drum at 362, at 2 on the gas dial. I then turned up the gas to 3 (the maximum I use on this size batch) and let the coffee proceed on this track until just after recording the Maillard stage. Just after noticing the color change, I turned the gas down slightly to 2.5. At which point the RoC was so steady and smooth that I just… left it there!
The coffee cracked at a slightly higher temperature of 395F, but managed a full minute of development before it was dropped at 401. And the pay off? Warm vanilla and baker’s chocolate were noted by multiple cuppers. Joining these flavors in the cup were sweet notes of banana, berries and black cherry, the acidity of clementines and a thick, syrupy body, which held everything together like a hug. It was so delicious, I could have drunk cup upon cup! I can definitely see this as a sweet, thick, delicious espresso to enjoy on its own, but it would also hold its own against all manner of milks. That being said, I would be delighted to enjoy this as a morning brew, as I sat down to read the paper and snack on a cardamom bun!
Quest M3s Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Quest roasts. Generally, I’ll allow the machine to warm up for 15 minutes until my environmental temperature reading is at least 250F, weigh out 150g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature. Read my initial post here and my updated post here.
We’re really getting into the rhythm of things now. The Crown has been open for nearly a year, and we’re starting to see some of the same coffees we had last year coming in again. This coffee is a sweet reminder of the past year – how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.
This coffee in particular has the same name, and is very consistent to the flavor profile of last year’s arrival as well with notes of brown sugar, apple, vanilla, and green grape.
I approached this coffee with my new standard methodology – full heat application and airflow until Turning Point, then a reduction in heat and a cutoff on the airflow. At 3:10 / 287F I brought back airflow to ‘3’ on the dial in order to draw the coffee more slowly through Maillard. This coffee took on heat quite easily, and at 5:20 / 357F I turned up airflow all the way. Undaunted, the coffee kept steady on its path, so I reduced heat application to 7.5A at 6:00 / 374F, just a bit before first crack. Just after First Crack, at 6:50 / 390F, I turned off heat application entirely and prepared to drop the coffee into the cooling tray.
In retrospect, it would have been nice to cruise a little more gently into First Crack, but this roast didn’t result in any overtly roasty notes. 14.2% of this roast was spent in post-crack development, and I only reached 10.9% roast loss, so there were plenty of sugary notes on the cupping table. Caramel was featured prominently, as was honey and cocoa powder.
While this coffee is (as Chris noted) high on the chuggability scale, I believe Timor-Leste has a chance to make a very distinct flavor profile for itself in coffees like this. These are some very distinct honey and praline notes here that I think will work well in nearly any preparation, from espresso to drip coffee. Give it a shot!
Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor
This is a really wonderful coffee from Timor-Leste, an often underappreciated coffee producing region. Each time we cupped this coffee, I was pleasantly surprised by its complexity, so I was curious to see which notes would really shine through in the brewing stages.
I dusted off our Origami dripper for this week’s brew analysis and brewed a fairly straightforward 1:15 brew. It finished right around the 3:30 mark, with a 1.57 TDS and 20.44% extraction yield, all fairly regular numbers. In the cup, we found more of the complexity we had been tasting on the cupping table: peach tea, marmalade, black cherry, molasses, dark chocolate, and more! Despite being so complex, this coffee was a delight to sip on and not at all overwhelming or overpowering. As a pourover, this coffee definitely showcased more of its bright, fruity notes, but I’d bet this coffee would make an incredibly rich and sweet immersion brew or espresso as well; there’s something for everyone here!