Place in world as coffee exporter (14/15):
Sacks (60kg) exported annually (14/15):
Percentage of world coffee market:
Less than 1%
Other major agricultural exports:
Coffee is the only cash crop
Typical Varieties Produced:
Catimor, Sarchimor & Timor Hybrid (aka Tim Tim or HDT)
Key Coffee Regions:
Maubesse, Aifu, Ermera, Liquica, Aileu & Ainaro
Typical Harvest Times:
May - October
Although East Timor’s profile as a coffee producing country remains somewhat muted, the country’s history as a coffee producing origin is unique and its promise as a producer of specialty coffee is great. Coffee was introduced to East Timor in the 1860s by the Portuguese. It quickly became a major export (overtaking sandalwood), and by the mid-1860's accounted for at least 50% of the value of total exports from the colony. All of this production, however, was owned by a handful of Portuguese landowners, and local communities were only involved in harvesting. When, in the mid-1970s, Indonesia took control of the land, coffee became less of a focus and East Timor's coffee production significantly declined. In 1999, a referendum for independence was filed and full independence was achieved by 2002. Since then, the coffee sector has been quickly rebuilt with international assistance, and coffee now accounts for some 80% of East Timor's total exports and is the country’s only cash crop.
Another factor making East Timor notable when it comes to coffee is that it has its own hybrid – the Timor Hybrid – which dates back to the pre-WWII period. Timor Hybrid (often known as Tim Tim or HDT) was born of the spontaneous mating of a Robusta and Arabica plant and is a highly disease resistant and high yielding variety that has now been planted around the world. Timor Hybrid also forms the backbone of the well-known Catimor and Sarchimor varieties.
East Timor in many ways has less than optimal conditions for coffee production. An arid climate and short rainy season further complicate the naturally low soil fertility in many of the country’s coffee regions. Despite this, the country is increasing quality and productivity at a rapid rate. Much of the country’s coffee is passively organic, as fertilisers and pesticides have never been introduced, and 100% of the coffee is shade grown. Furthermore, even the smallest improvements can yield huge results. There are several programs in place currently, many of which are being funded by international development organisations, which will fundamentally change the way that coffee is harvested and processed in East Timor. Combined with increased investment in infrastructure by the government – for instance new roads that will ensure easier transport of goods – East Timor is poised to be a reliable producer of good, versatile coffees.