Canberra's specialty coffee experts Project Origin are partners in a new project which has been designed to increase Timor-Leste's coffee bean production by more than 175 tonnes in less than two years.
The Timor-Leste economy took a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the price of commodity grade coffee falling on the international coffee market.
The "Orijem Timor" project aims to help improve the quality of coffee produced in Timor-Leste to specialty grade, which will greatly increase its price and reputation.
Business partnership platforms and the government have funded more than $1.7m for the project, which will be led by Project Origin and Timor-Leste based company Kape Diem.
Project Origin general manager Habib Maarbani said one technique they would introduce is carbonic maceration, a process borrowed from wine makers that involves de-oxygenating coffee cherries in an anaerobic environment.
The process greatly improves the quality of the beans.
"The project is supposed to last until 2023, but we see it as being indefinite, our vision is to empower farmers to create stuff that is completely different." he said.
He said that the project aimed to increase the quantity as well as the quality of the coffee that was being produced in Timor-Leste.
"Before the grant they would have produced about 4-5 tonnes of coffee, because of the grant we're looking at 20 tonnes for this year, 60 tonnes for 2022 and 180 tonnes in 2023," said Mr Maarbani.
The project also aims to promote gender equality in the industry and increase sustainability.
Part of the projects plans include catering training sessions to be inclusive to female workers, and acknowledge the work of women in Timor-Leste who are often overlooked.
He said it will be a challenge to introduce sustainability measures in rural areas, but they had plans to introduce solar energy and water treatment programs.
Mr Maarbani said that they had found the "perfect partner" in Timor-Leste based coffee group Kape Diem.
"It's great to have them as the 'on the ground' side of the project as we obvious can't travel there often because of COVID-19," he said.
"From our side we have the international connections and can help with marketing, we also have experience with projects like this and can help with farm knowledge and coffee processing," he said.
Mr Maarbani said that the developing the coffee produced from being mostly commodity grade to mostly specialty grade could make an enormous impact.
Commodity grade coffee is defined as being less than 80 on the cupping scale, and specialty is more than 80.
"The difference in value between a coffee that is 81-82 on the scale and 85-88 can be two to five times higher," he said.
"Coffee rated at over 90 on the scale can be anywhere from 10 to 100 times the value of commodity grade."
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