It is 3:00 in the afternoon, and I feel like an important part of my day is missing. I go through a mental check list of the past few hours: I ate breakfast, started working on my budgeting class, walked around my community, ate lunch, took a “deskansa” or break, and now I am sitting on my front porch about to read up on budgeting activities from a Peace Corps manual. Yep, seems like a normal day. After about five minutes I yawn. Man, I could really use some coffee – I thought to myself. Then it hit me. COFFEE. I have gone for more than two hours without coffee, and now I am having withdrawals.
Here in Timor, coffee is the lifeblood of the country, but even more so in the mountains. Many people use coffee as a source of living by selling the sweet nectar of the gods in their small kiosks (what I would describe as the equivalent of a 7-11 in Timor). But coffee is an important part of welcoming guests in Timor. Everytime you visit friends or family, you will be offered a cup of coffee – for free. This makes it very hard to buy coffee to help feed my habit every time I visit the capital.
A three step process to enjoying coffee in Timor exists: Making the trek out to the farm land and pick the beans, “fae kafé” – or the process of separating the shells from the beans, frying and then grinding the café, and then enjoying with friends. This post is about the second process – the “fae kafe” part.
I have recently become a huge fan of the “fae kafe” step. The process is good work, very calming, and has a great outcome: coffee.
STEP ONE: The first step is probably the most time consuming. For this process we use an“Alu and Lesu”. The alu is the large metal pole you see in the picture below, and Lesu being the carved wooden trunk. The Lesu has a hole in the middle, and you can put coffee or corn in the middle to help you separate or grind things.
For this step, we use a alu and lesu to separate the beans from the shells by making a motion kind of like you would with a motar and pestole – but on a much larger scale.
This step has a a whole process of its own. Usually we “fae kafe” for five minutes, and then put into a “lafatik” or a large woven platter of sorts. We then shake the beans and blow the dust and shells out of the lafatik. The next step is one of the most fun steps: we “hili kafe” or choose the bad beans, throw them out, and hand clean the beans that were not separated from the shells during the first “fae kafe” round. I really enjoy this process because it is usually performed while sitting around and talking with friends.
STEP TWO: The second step is to “sona kafe” or fry the café. Using what looks like a large wok, a spatula that could potentially double as a shovel because the size and length is so massive, and a cooking fire, we continuously stir the coffee beans and continue to fry or roast them. This is my second favorite part in the process, because it smells so good. The whole kitchen is filled with the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans – and if I sit close enough to the fire, I will be doused with the perfume “eu de kafe” for the rest of the day.
STEP THREE: The third step looks a lot like the first step. We use the “Alu and Lesu” , but this time we use it to grind the coffee. It is important to make the coffee the same consistency as fine sand, in order to do this, we use the lafatik – or the woven platter. We shake the ground coffee until all of the larger pieces have risen to the top, and put the larger pieces back in the “Lesu” to continue grinding the coffee.
STEP FOUR: The final step is my absolute favorite. When you are all through, it is important to make a pot of coffee and drink it with your friends… You know, for quality control purposes.