Coffee

Single Origin: East Timor

Happy #WellTailoredWednesday! I recently tried the East Timor single origin coffee from Starbucks.

Okay I’ll be honest—I initially judge a coffee by its cover. As soon as I walked in to my local ‘Bucks, I noticed this bright red cover with a black alligator down the middle. And so I decided to give it a shot!

Chocolatey and Earthy Delight

Upon first opening the bag, I was greeted by an almost-chocolatey aroma. To me, it was half cocoa and half “earthy”. You know, like the smell of fertile soil in late May? And as it is with most coffees, taking that first sip of this brew revealed so much about this one. There was definitely a crispness to it, but a smoothness as well. Though it hails from the same region as their famous dark Sumatra roast, the Timor blend isn’t as strong or “bold”. If you’re looking for that, then I would highly recommend the coffee I previously reviewed: the Café du Monde.

When and How To Drink It

The East Timor blend is great coffee to have in the AM. It provided just enough flavor and character to jump start the day without sending my taste buds into a frenzy. Though I’d recommend a stronger blend for an afternoon pick-me-up (see the Café du Monde or even the Medium Colombia Blend), I wouldn’t be opposed to drinking the East Timor in the evening either. Since this blend is very well-balanced, I’d recommend sticking to the standard 1:1 ground-to-water ratio. If you’re thinking about drinking it on the rocks, you may want to add more grounds, so to balance the ice.

From Starbucks

Here’s the official writeup about the East Timor Blend:

Coffee from the Malay Archipelago is known for its exceptional qualities, a smooth cup with distinctive flavors and notes of herbs and spice. The first coffee plants arrived there with Dutch traders in the17th century. The early plantations thrived in the equatorial climate and rich volcanic soil. Coffee grown on the island of Java even lent the beverage a new nickname.

Starbucks had sourced coffee from the archipelago’s larger islands such as Sumatra and Sulawesi since the 1970s, but the company did not buy beans from Timor until decades later. That island’s eastern mountains produced only a small quantity of coffee that was grown wild and processed completely by hand; its lack of infrastructure was exacerbated by decades of conflict. In 1996, Starbucks helped put East Timor on the coffee map when coffee buyer Dave Olsen made the company’s first purchase from Cooperativa Café Timor, which had been working with the nation’s smallholder farmers to improve the quality and yield of their harvests.

“When I first went there, they had about half a container of coffee – that’s say 120 bags of green coffee – which is nothing, especially now,” said Olsen, who retired from the company in 2013. “But it was all they could muster. So, I bought it as a show of faith that it could be better.”

Starbucks continued to buy coffee from East Timor each harvest as its quality improved, and it became an important component of some of Starbucks most popular blends. In 2002 the region gained independence and officially became Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, ushering in an era of stability and growth for the new nation and its emerging specialty coffee industry.

Now customers can experience coffee from this singular region with Starbucks® Single Origin East Timor Tatamailau whole-bean coffee, available for a limited time in Starbucks stores in the United States and Canada. The coffee takes its name from East Timor’s highest peak of Mount Ramelau, known as Tatamailau, “grandfather of all” in local language. The mountain has deep cultural significance – its silhouette is the shape of a crocodile that legend says gave birth to the island.

“This coffee has these nice dark chocolatey flavors and notes of wild cardamom,” said Mackenzie Karr from Starbucks Coffee team. “It is balanced and approachable, a very drinkable cup that shows up nicely in a variety of brewing methods both hot and iced.”

The offering continues the Starbucks Single Origin series, launched in March, which invites customers to discover whole-bean coffees to try at home from origins around the world.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase rare and unique coffees that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Karr said.

Olsen looks back on the two decades since he tasted his first cup of East Timor coffee.

“It went from this meager beginning, buying a partial container of coffee that we couldn’t really use anyway, to then Timor coffee becoming an important coffee for blending,” he said. “Now the quality has risen to a level where it belongs on the marquee in bright lights, and its name is on the package and its story is being told.”

If you end up trying this coffee, please let me know what you think of it in the Comments’ section below! Thanks for reading!