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Learning about the Australian coffee culture


25 July 2007
Helping the people of East Timor to protect biodiversity through a thriving agro-forestry industry, while improving their incomes, is David Lloyd’s passion.

David, a senior lecturer in the School of Environmental Science and Management at Southern Cross University, is one of a team of University experts working with members of the East Timor Coffee Academy (ETICA) who are currently visiting the Northern Rivers region.

The East Timorese are keen to learn how people in the West like their coffee – and its cultural significance – so they can adapt their coffee growing and production techniques to produce the flavours we so favour.

Back in East Timor, you can forget the lattes, cappuccino, mocha, or (heaven forbid) instant – the traditional way to take your coffee is fresh, strong and black, said Lucio Marcal Gomes, ETICA president.

“Coffee is highly culturally significant in our culture,” Lucio said. “Small coffee plantations are handed down from generation to generation and are considered a very special inheritance. The very first thing you offer a visitor to your household is a cup of freshly brewed coffee. It would be rude not to.

“The beans are grown in the family plot, harvested by hand and dry roasted in a big clay or metal wok over an open fire, then ground with a mortar and pestle. The coffee grounds are either prepared in a plunger or just boiled and allowed to settle before pouring.”

For older people, the idea of adding milk and sugar to coffee seems peculiar, because it dilutes both the flavour and aroma. Like his compatriots, Lucio prefers his coffee dark, thick and rich ‘chavena’ style – pure and natural, in a shot glass.

“But one of the things we are here to learn is what the Western palette appreciates in coffee and how to produce beans that reflect those qualities, and also how and why people in the West drink coffee,” Lucio said.

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 26, ETICA members and Southern Cross University staff will pay a visit to Zenfelds coffee farm at Newrybar, near Byron Bay, to examine their new wet processing facility and to discuss coffee production techniques.

For some time now the University has supported the fledgling East Timor agro-forestry industry – with visits by University experts to East Timor to share knowledge and expertise in the field, as well as hosting the support and training of ETICA on campus.

Coffee is East Timor’s largest cash crop. It is grown organically, without the use of pesticides or fertilizers as an under-story plant in rainforest areas.

Currently the ETICA contingent are here for a three-week-long training program, looking at many aspects of agro-forestry, agriculture, soil and wood science, bamboo propagation, planting and managing plantation timbers, environmental mapping, computer and teaching training, entomology and pathology, and, of course, coffee production – from selecting a site and testing the soil, to roasting and marketing the beans and managing diseases and pests. Many different Schools at the University are involved in supporting the project.

For most of the East Timorese, this is the first time out of their country and the experience they are having and knowledge they are gaining is invaluable to them, Lucio said.

Photo: ETICA members enjoy a cuppa with SCU staff Serwan Baban (left rear) and David Lloyd (right rear). ETICA members are (from left, front row): Costodio Soares, Suzie Exposto, Fernando Soares. Second row from left: Mateus de Jesus, Nicolau de Vasconcelos, Julio Gomes, Moises Borromeu, Lucio Gomes, Amaral dos Reis, Ina Bradridge.

Media opportunity: Media are welcome to join SCU staff and members of ETICA at Zenfelds coffee farm, 193 Broken Head Rd, Newrybar, Ph: 6687 2045, (2kms down the road from the highway on the LHS) from 10am – 12 noon or at other locations by inquiry.

Media inquiries: Zoe Satherley, Southern Cross University media officer 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.