8 – 19 August 201
Dili & Maubisse
When we were told days before that we were going to a place where salt was made, we imagined large, massive salt fields by the sea. There will be a lot of white ponds with salt crystals which could be quite photogenic – or so we thought. Then our driver signalled we were there. We looked out the window and saw a grey, muddy empty place with huts scattered here and there with no one around. It looked like a dry ghost town. And like in a movie, I was waiting for tumbleweeds to pass by . . .
For a good 10 minutes, it was like we entered the twilight zone – tinu ninu ninu ninu – we were in another planet. All around us were mounds or little hills of hard mud and we just didn’t get it. Where was the salt? Our driver didn’t speak much English, so sign language and the little Bahasa we knew was how we got by — it didn’t get us very far. As we walked around to try to understand the place and the mysterious salt making process, it was when we peered into a hut that we finally understood. Someone was inside boiling brine. Salt was made in the age old traditional manner. Sodium chloride or NaCl was from brine boiled in a wide open pan with fire, constantly fuelled by dry palm fronds.
We shall endeavour to show the process of making salt – a most ancient preservative and the magic ingredient that brings out the flavour in food.
From the coast we travelled to the highlands of Maubisse – 1,500 meters above sea level with temperature ranging from 14 – 19°C. There we saw the much more lucrative industry of East Timor – that of growing of coffee arabica beans for the export market. The organically grown high quality arabica coffee beans are supplied to Starbucks which in turn packages it as Arabian Mocha Timor. Starbucks has described it as a perfect balance between the clean, fresh floral notes of washed Timor coffees, and the wild and exotic berry, cocoa, spice flavors of naturally processed Arabian Mocha Sanani. It’s a complex blend with up front berry notes, medium body and a clean finish. Coffees from East Timor are washed and have acidity, though not as pronounced as Latin American coffee. Coffee from East Timor often has an herbal taste quality as well — not bad considering these crops were devastated about a decade ago when Indonesian militia destroyed much of East Timor’s coffee industry after the 1999 referendum.
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