Timor Update: Health, Education and Quality Coffee

Several years ago we worked with Cooperative Café Timor to create the first Direct Trade relationship in Timor, with the village of Atsabe. While everyone else, from Starbux to Equal Exchange, buys coffee that is blended from dozens of farming areas throughout the Maubesse and Ermera regions, we get our coffee exclusively from Atsabe. This has allowed us to create a meaningful relationship with the farm families of Atsabe, see the kids grow, and go deeper year after year. We were the first buyers ever to visit Atsabe, and developed an immediate rapport.

The coffee from Atsabe has always been excellent and consistent, unlike the mixed coffees that vary in quality each year. Our development relationship is powerful, as well. Our past projects have focused on maternal health, which has now largely been taken over by the government. So the farmers asked us to focus on another high priority – education. There is little government support for education in remote coffee villages in Timor. The local high school in Atsabe didn’t even have desks and chairs! We took care of that, as well as a year’s supply of notebooks, pens, chalk and other supplies for the students and the teachers. We even provided soccer balls and jerseys (okay, they said “Dean’s Beans” on them – move over Nike!). Avelino da Silva, the coop president, told me that having desks and even soccer jerseys did a lot for the students’ self-esteem, an important aspect of educational achievement.

During our big community meeting this time, a student delegation made a moving presentation asking for computer support – their entire computer education program consisted of an old laptop and a solar panel. We agreed to supply up to ten more laptops, filled with needed programs such as Office, Photoshop and a Firefox browser. We put out a call to our Facebook friends and web customers for good used laptops and got a great response.

We also began to explore the potential for creating a program to address cervical cancer – the major cause of cancer death for women throughout the coffeelands, and a big problem in little Timor, according to Marce, the head of CCT’s maternal health program. Marce was really excited about bringing community-based cervical cancer detection and treatment to Timor. Lots of pieces in that puzzle, but we are already working on gathering information and allies to pursue this vital program.

This year, we will also buy the first Fair Trade Organic robusta coffee from Timor. I cupped the coffee at the CCT facility outside Dili, the capital. This is the best tasting robusta I have ever cupped, so we committed to buying the entire crop! This robusta will add a nice creamy taste to Ahab's Revenge, Sharkbite and our espresso blends (as well as a great new green offering for all you home roasters!). CCT has begun to branch out into spices, as well, which helps us achieve our dream of offering fair trade spices from the original Spice Islands - but that's another story!

Drink up!

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