With the new coffee harvest upon us, we ventured into Ermera once more to visit the sub-district of Letefoho, where the coffee is well-known for being of the highest quality.
Letefoho is known as the home of the hill walkers and features Arabica coffee grown underneath the protective canopy of the tall shade trees. Coffee can be seen growing everywhere, by the side of the road to high above on the sides of the sloping mountains. Overlooked by Mount Ramelau, Letefoho is famed for having great tasting coffee, with certain smallholder villages having been awarded the coveted ACT (Asociasaun Cafe Timor) coffee of the year award.
We went to visit our good friends – the Roan family, and roam around their fruitful coffee plantation. Once there, we got down to business and headed off in amongst the coffee trees to see what we could find. Armed with empty baskets the challenge was set to see who would be able to pick the most red cherries.
The last time we came to Letefoho, we were unable to see any cherries at all, so it was great to be able to see such an abundance this time, following the long and nourishing rains of the wet season.
Coffee cherry picking is no easy feat…or not for Stewart and I at least. For the Timorese farmers who have grown up roaming around this terrain, its part of everyday life, so scaling the sides of 45 degree sloping hills in flip flops or even barefoot, is no problem at all!
With the trusty help of our friends, we were able to seek out the coffee trees with a plentiful supply of red cherries….and so the picking began.
Cherry after cherry we picked, trying to ensure that only the reddest and biggest were plucked. It’s at times like this however when it really pays off to be tall, or at least to have monkey like skills where you are able to hang from a tree with one hand and pick cherries with the other, as demonstrated by our new friend Nester! Sadly for me, I am neither vertically blessed nor do I have the agility of a monkey, so I had to enlist the help of a big hooked stick to be able to pull the tops of the trees down to enable me to pick the ripest cherries which typically can only be found at the highest point where the suns rays are most accessible.
Coffee cherry picking is definitely not an easy job. Its understandable that some farmers would strip the branch completely of all the cherries, as this is the easiest and fastest way, but isn’t ideal for producing speciality quality coffee. For this, selective picking is required and so only the reddest and ripest cherries should make it into the basket. This however takes time, but in the end the benefits will be seen through the higher prices paid for the farmers crop.
After about an hour, our baskets were slowly but surely becoming heavier as the weight of the delicious coffee producing fruit began to fill up. And so, with the heat of the sun beating down on us, we decided to head back to base, where we tried our hand at pulping some cherries with a manual pulper.
A motorised pulper would definitely make a huge difference in a coffee farmers productivity, allowing more efficient pulping in a shorter time. In support of the farmers in Letefoho and specifically with the the Roan family, we will be looking to support them by looking into the opportunity of purchasing a motorised pulping machine to aid their coffee processing abilities further.
It’s always inspiring to visit the farmers and see first hand how dedicated to their work they are, to ensure that they can maintain a comfortable life for their family and the surrounding community. And it’s also refreshing to see lots of kids making the most of the natural surroundings, enjoying the freedom of having nature right on their doorstep rather than being obsessed with playing video games or watching TV.
Keep following our blog to see regular updates with regards to when you will be able to get your hands on the wonderful coffee grown organically in amongst the Letefoho mountains.