The island of Timor has a turbulent, eventful and highly contested history. The first contacts of the Portuguese with the island date back to the beginning of the 16th century. After the conquest of Malaca and the consequent domination of the seas and trade in the region (Insulindia), sandalwood attracted Portuguese navigators who arrived on the island around 1514. The first missionaries arrived in 1556.
The conquest was slow, encountering many obstacles, from local resistance to the expansionist impulses of other Asian nations and the Dutch conquest. At the end of these processes, Portugal remained master of half of the island, now East Timor. After 1974, Timorese autonomous politics became active, although it is notorious how late the new power was in taking the reins of local government. After years of administration by the United Nations, East Timor was granted independence in 2002. This made East Timor the first state to become independent in the 21st century. And coffee plays an important role in this context.
Under Governor Vitorino Freire da Cunha Gusmão, coffee was first cultivated in 1815 in the coastal regions west of Dili. Cunha Gusmão also introduced sugar cane and started rum production. By 1858, coffee had achieved a considerable share of exports, along with the old trading goods of wax, honey, leather, wheat, tortoises and horses. In the following years, coffee production continued to grow and the other export goods lost importance. Today, coffee is still the country's most important export - a particularly aromatic and smooth coffee grows in the highlands. The terrain consists mainly of hilly and mountainous areas with very rugged elevations. The lowest points are the Timor Sea, the Savo Sea and the Banda Sea. Then, at 2,900 meters of altitude, we can find Mount Ramelau, the highest point in East Timor.
The small monocultures make the business sustainable, artificial fertilizers and pesticides are not used, mass production is not practiced and the use of machinery is low. Most of the processing is washed coffee: the beans are handpicked and the pulp is removed; they are then immersed in water for a period of 20 to 30 hours, after which they undergo a natural drying process in the sun, or artificially, over a fire.
The Ermera Region
The Ermera Region is situated in a vast mountainous area at an altitude of between 700 and 2,000 metres. The geography and ecology there provide optimum conditions for growing Arabica coffee at high altitudes. In this region, the coffee beans, which have a longer growing and ripening phase, have excellent organoleptic characteristics and, if well processed, can produce a coffee of excellent quality. In fact, Ermera has all the necessary characteristics for the production of Arabica coffee, with fertile soils suitable for growing coffee. The main coffees cultivated in this region are Arabica coffee and the Timor Hybrid.
Typica is one of the world's most iconic coffee varieties. Its origin dates back to the birthplace of Arabica coffee in Ethiopia, and is integral to the understanding of the coffees we drink today. Its susceptibility to pests and disease has made it a less popular option among the coffee growers; however, its high quality cup profile and ability to demand higher prices is something to be reckoned with. You'll find Typica varieties all over the world, from Blue Mountain in Jamaica to Arabigo in Central America. It is the father of some of today's popular varieties such as Mundo Novo or Pacamara.
The Catimor variety was developed in Portugal in 1959 by scientists looking for the magic formula of high yields, high disease resistance and small plant size. This variety is a hybrid of the Timor Hybrid (see below) and the Caturra variety. Caturra is a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety (Bourbon-Typica group, a high quality group).
The Timor Hybrid is the result of a natural cross between Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties, it is a species called introgressed ("brought over"). It is a species of Arabica coffee that is less susceptible to pests and very resistant to rust, a disease that devastates coffee plantations. This botanical cross was very unlikely and completely spontaneous, because it merges the chromosome sets of two distinct plants: the Robusta with 22 and the Arabica with 44 chromosomes. This, as well as having biological value, was for a long time unique in the world. Thanks to its discovery in the 60's of the XX century, it can be crossed, allowing the improvement of the coffee plantations and arming them against the rust fungus. The Timor Hybrid in Central America is also called "Tim Tim".
The Timor-Leste Flag was adopted in 2002 - it is the same as the 1975 flag. According to the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, the yellow triangle represents the "traces of colonialism" in the history of Timor-Leste. The black triangle represents "the obscurantism that needs to be overcome". The red base of the flag represents "the struggle for national liberation"; while the star, or "the guiding light", is white to represent peace.
The little crocodile on our label is a tribute to the mythical legend of Timor's origin: Lafaek Diak - The Good Crocodile.
A juvenile saltwater crocodile was about to die when a young man found it stranded in a swamp far from the sea. Although very scared, the young man decided to try and save the crocodile and eventually managed to get it back to the sea, where it quickly recovered. The two became best friends and continued to travel the world together, with the boy riding on the crocodile's back as he swam across the seas. But as the crocodile grew and the time came for it to die, it told the young man that it would become a beautiful island where he and his children could live until the sun sank into the sea...
Even today, the crocodile has great symbolic meaning in East Timor. This tale is often told in Timor to explain the island's crocodile form and why the Timorese have a special affinity with the large reptile that is said to inhabit the streams along much of the country's southern coast. Traditionally, it is referred to as "grandfather" and there is a custom of shouting "Crocodile, I am your grandson - don't eat me" when crossing rivers.
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" For a long time, our new resistant Arabica lived only on our island. Our island is a giant crocodile, we defend it and it defends us. But the wind brought us wise coffee men who explained to us that our Arabica, the Timor, was the result of a love story between an Arabica and a Robusta plant and that we should share this plant with the world and tell our protector, the crocodile, to let the Timor go to help others like us who love coffee plants. When he said goodbye, he told us: don't worry about your Timor, they will always be the first, Ulok Timor, where it all started, everything changed. "
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The fabric pattern on the small crocodile is also an allusion to a long tradition in East Timor.
Fabrics that have been produced on the island of Timor for a long time are called "tais". The production of these fabrics takes place entirely within a family, from spinning to weaving on a simple frame. This is the manual work of women, who are held in high esteem due to the cultural significance of this work. Frames for the special ikat weaving technique, in which the yarn is partially dyed before processing, as well as weaving frames are usually constructed by men.
The tradition is threatened by several factors, including the preference for modern clothing among younger generations, the substitution of local handmade materials for industrial alternatives, inadequate income generation and a dwindling number of weavers. Thus, in 2020, the government of Timor-Leste requested UNESCO to recognize Tais as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in Urgent Need of Preservation. Inclusion on the UNESCO list took place in 2021, and in 2022, the National Parliament of Timor-Leste declared 14 December as Tais National Day ("Dia Nacional do Tais").