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Chinese-made robot serves Timor-Leste’s ‘civet’ coffee at China International Import Expo

Tiny island nation’s exotic brands appeal to China’s growing band of coffee lovers, picking up US$5 million in sales.



Tiny island nation’s exotic brands appeal to China’s growing band of coffee lovers, picking up US$5 million in sales.



UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

Timor-Leste has been wowing visitors at the 4th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai with its signature coffee which is dispensed by a robot.

“Timor-Leste has the best Kopi Luwak in the world, and it should be matched with the best coffee-making techniques,” said Bei Lei, the Timor-Leste pavilion’s executive curator. It takes the robot around three minutes to brew a cup of coffee, with the whole process remotely controllable.

Kopi Luwak, Indonesian for “civet coffee”, a highly unusual blend that consists of partially digested coffee beans, which have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. 

The coffee industry is regarded as an economic pillar for Timor-Leste, a fledgling republic whose population of 1.3 million is spread over some 14,800 square kilometres.

High standards for bean-picking and processing have made the organic Kopi Luwak a signature product, with annual production limited to about 800 kilos.

Timor-Leste has been an active participant in CIIE – which is due to end tomorrow – for the last three years helping to raise the profile of its Kopi Luwak in China, where a growing number of i people are becoming coffee lovers.

Since last year’s expo, Kopi Luwak, as well as other types of specialty coffee from Timor-Leste, have garnered orders worth US$5 million.

According to Bei, Chinese buyers have “substantially improved the lives of farmers in Timor-Leste.

The country’s farming industry was heavily impacted by Covid-19 and a devastating flood last April, however, orders from China provided more opportunities to farmers.

The coffee-making robot’s shoulders are draped with colourful “tais” cloth, a traditional Timor-Leste textile that symbolises respect.

The robot, developed by Beijing OrionStar Technology, brings out the best flavour of the coffee, while ensuring that every cup tastes the same, said senior product manager Yang Xinbo.

Yang said CIIE also provides his company with a great platform for display and cooperation, as the robot and the Kopi Luwak bring out the best in each other.

“We are planning to establish long-term business ties and sell the combination to staff canteens and self-service cafes,” he added.

China has been encouraging and assisting less-developed countries to join CIIE, one of the world’s premier national-level dedicated import expos. Around 90 companies from 33 countries are participating in this year’s edition.

Timor-Leste’s exhibition area has been expanded from a single shelf to two standard booths spanning a total of 18 square metres, and is free of site fees.

In addition to the annual six-day event, Timor-Leste also enjoys a year-round spillover effect as it has set up pavilions inside the pilot free trade zone in Shanghai and in the city of Hangzhou, according to Xinhua.


UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 4:42 am

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