Timor-Leste Single Origin - Rebuilding a Nation's Economy From the Soil

By James Campos

Since its inception in 2010, endeavours to give back to the community have been interwoven into the fabric of White Whale Coffee Roasters. While Ali and Steve’s unwavering support for the local Cairns community, in particular their contribution to the Reef Restoration Foundation’s coral regeneration efforts on the Great Barrier Reef has been well-documented, their community-minded ethos has more recently transcended Australian borders. In the latter half of 2021, White Whale Coffee Roasters began to cement a fruitful and mutually-beneficial relationship with local coffee producers in the Ermera municipality of Far North Queensland’s close neighbour, Timor-Leste. As the first state to achieve sovereignty in the 21st century, Timor-Leste’s journey into the cups of coffee drinkers in Cairns and further afield is complex and deserving of explanation. 

The last two decades have seen Timor-Leste exploit its rich natural resources, namely oil, in order to transition from the grips of 25 years of significant internal conflict that claimed over 200,000 lives. Yet, with the nation’s oil resources forecasted to run dry in the coming 10-15 years, a pressing need to diversify the economy of the most oil-dependent nation in the world has arisen, especially as Timor-Leste strives to hoist an estimated 42% of its 1.3 million residents out of poverty. This is where the multifaceted power of coffee comes into focus. Timor-Leste’s budding coffee sector has been widely tipped to become instrumental in this economic transition, with 37% of families already reliant on coffee as a source of income. Historically, Timor-Leste’s coffee sector has been made-up of small-scale local producers with limited access to the infrastructure needed to ensure consistent productivity and the profitability of their product, and as such, entry to the speciality coffee market for local producers has remained rife with barriers. With the assistance of ethically-minded green bean brokers like Raw Material, who have assisted Timor-Leste’s producers to overcome these challenges, there has been a widespread graduation amongst local producers from merely gathering coffee to actively farming coffee that is grown with the speciality market in mind.


As a result, White Whale Coffee Roasters and our customer base now actively support the livelihoods of families living in villages throughout the Ermera municipality, who now receive at least 75% more profit compared to figures taken from 2018. In a region where poverty remains well below the national average, the true impact of such drastically improved margins can not be overstated.

This is a win-win in the truest sense. When you purchase our Timor-Leste Single Origin beans, or sip on a cup of delicious brew, you are doing much more than making an ethically-minded purchase. Many of you may recall reaping the full-bodied, velvety and cocoa-like spoils of this naturally processed, wildly grown and organic coffee at our Portsmith Espresso Bar or via your home machine. And with our latest shipment having just dotted down, there’s plenty more where that came from! Relationships like that which exists between White Whale Coffee Roasters and local producers in the Ermera municipality will ultimately determine the future viability of Timor-Leste’s coffee sector and the economic security of those families that call the nation home. Drink up!