Sorting coffee beans, Timor Leste
1.5 million of best flat whites ever

In 2003 Victorian Premier Steve Bracks asked Andrew Mahar to go to newly independent Timor-Leste and help the Dili Institute of Technology upgrade their IT systems.

Andrew, who was founder of IT social enterprise Infoxchange, went to Dili and worked on improving the university’s technology set up.

This led to Andrew bringing Timorese students to study IT in Australia, which led to setting up InfoTimor, a social enterprise which sent donated computers to Timor-Leste to be refurbished and sold locally, which led to Andrew beginning a Melbourne coffee roasting enterprise.

Hold on…we need to back up a little here.

Okay, so in 2012 while waiting in the departure lounge of the Dili International Airport, Andrew Mahar began chatting with Brett Inder. Inder was working for fair-trade organisation Tradewinds helping to get the Timorese coffee industry off the ground.

After decades fighting for its independence Timor-Leste was broke and needed money badly. The wild coffee plants that had escaped former Portuguese-owned plantations were seen as a potential source of income for farmers living below the poverty line.

Andrew, being a serial entrepreneur from Australia’s coffee capital was intrigued. With the help of his daughter, Alice, he bought a popcorn popper on eBay and began roasting Timorese coffee beans in his backyard.

With 100gm of coffee taking around 25 minutes to roast Andrew and Alice quickly worked out they would need better gear if their coffee operation was to make any impact.

A second-hand 15kg roaster was found and brought back on a trailer from the northern NSW coast, son/brother, Jake, was recruited into the operation and WithOneBean Coffee was born.

The coffee quickly caused a stir – that’s Timor-Leste President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jose Ramos-Horta, spruiking his bag of WithOneBean below.

Jose Ramos Horta with Corner Store Coffee, Timor Leste

In its first year, WithOneBean Coffee moved from the Mahar’s backyard to a warehouse in Clayton where Jake put half a ton of green beans through the new 15kg roaster.

Wanting to make the most impact possible, Andrew looked for a way WithOneBean could be more than just a fair trade coffee brand.

He decided they would plant a tree for every kilo of beans roasted through a community forestry initiative called WithOneSeed 

Timorese farmers would be paid to plant and care for native forestry trees from WithOneBean sales. The trees were radio-tagged and the sequestered carbon recorded.  

So far the accredited carbon farming scheme has planted over forty thousand trees (that’s some of them in the pic below). 

In 2017 Alice and Jake Mahar took over running WithOneBean.  Rebranding it as Corner Store Coffee they also opened an accompanying cafe and preserving kitchen.

To bring in more farmers and keep paying well-above Fairtrade coffee prices Alice and Jake knew their coffee had to keep evolving.

A new roaster was purchased and with it came confirmation in the form of a silver medal at the Golden Bean Specialty Coffee Awards.

Last year Alice and Jake bought 16 tons of beans from 386 Timorese farming families paying 73% higher than fair trade prices – enough to make almost one and a half million flat whites. 

You can find Corner Store’s award-winning coffee in home compostable bags in our webshop here.

Have a great week


For his two decades of work with the people of Timor-Leste Andrew Mahar has been awarded a Stockholm Challenge Award, an Order of Australia and a Sir John Monash Award for Sustainability. 

If you’d like to visit Corner Store’s Cafe and Preserving Hub is at 30 Hamilton St, Oakleigh

WithOneSeed, Timor Leste


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