We are a social enterprise based in Timor-Leste, located 8.8 degrees south of the equator.
This half-island nation is part of a greater archipelagic region with profound food diversity and
bio-cultural history that we hope to research, experiment, taste and document, and then share to a wider audience. Every day is an exploration.
We represent a global community that believes in a simple, but powerful idea:
"Food should be good, clean and fair for producers, eaters and the environment. We believe in a food system that celebrates biodiversity and nourishes the planet; a food system that creates healthy communities where everyone can eat, and eat well."
We believe in the power of sharing ideas over a delicious meal, where real human-to-human connections develop and can lead to positive changes our community and in the global food system.
We are a proud member of the Slow Food movement.
Mentoring Food Innovators
We mentor youth to shape the future of food and agriculture in the Asia-Pacific region. We connect them with other food innovators and thought-leaders across disciplines and geographies; with cooks and chefs from diverse culinary traditions; with farmers, producers, baristas and storytellers; with emerging innovative entrepreneurs who's core business demands a sustainable planet.
We currently mentor 16 Timorese youths to manage an unconventional restaurant. We ask that they think differently. To not be restricted by standard menus and restaurant formats. To be guided by the equatorial seasons and the knowledge of their ancestors. To become plant-forward champions who celebrate the seasonality of flavours. To advocate for native and heritage ingredients.
To eat in Timor-Leste is to eat seasonally.
Our menu changes every week depending on what nature provides.
90% of our ingredients are sourced locally from small-scale farmers and local markets. This keeps our flavour possibilities broad and our waste minimal.
In Ancient Greece, the "Agora" was a gathering place to share ideas. To honour its etymological roots, Agora Food Studio is designed as an open fluid space for collaboration and learning on the history, culture, science, and ethnobotany of food in the region.
In the national language of Timor-Leste, "Agora" also means "now" – a powerful and edifying reminder that we must act now, not tomorrow, to change the way we eat, to preserve biodiversity and indigenous knowledge, to innovate with empathy for others and our environment.
The Timor-Leste Food Lab began as a dream in 2015 by former-aid-workers-turned-social-entrepreneurs, Alva and Mark. The social enterprise finally established itself in 2016 and is entirely self-funded through its restaurant and cafe - the Agora Food Studio.
alva & mark co-founded slow food dili. from Here, the concept of TLFL began
TLFL: Agora Food Studio officially opens in August
AFS Baristas Julia & Tozy won the nation’s first barista competition
AFS collaborates with TL President’s nutrition awards programme to design a project that valorises heritage foods for better wellbeing - called ‘TLFIX’
TLFIX (Timor-leste food innovators exchange) pilot project is launched with support from the Australian DFAT InnovationXchange
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO
A self-confessed “jack of all trades, master of none” Mark has finally realised after 15 years in international development, government policymaking and youth training, that he liked - and is very good at - mentoring, teaching, project managing, and overall keeping busy while being surrounded by food and coffee.
Outside of work, his creativity emerges as puns on t-shirts, he devours American politics, and cooks great food - in the salad world, he is renowned as the samurai master.
Co-Founder and Director, Food Research and Innovation
An expert eater, Alva likes to discover the biodiversity and story of delicious foods in Timor-Leste. When not researching, fermenting or experimenting rare ingredients with the team, Alva moonlights as a sometimes-olive oil judge in Australia. She wants to study the lexicon of food and cooking at the El Bulli Foundation. Some days, she dreams being an apprentice tamagoyaki chef if all else fails. Alva has a background in econometrics and public policy, all of which has helped develop her interest in the behavioural economics of food choices.
Our Queen Tastemaker and Creative Leader. She makes Timorese ingredients dance on a plate. Outside of work, she is a biogas ambassador and trainer for the United Nations Development Programme.
From: Same, Manufahe
Our Artisan, she transforms rice and corn into the sublime.
From Quelicai, Baucau + Maliana, Bobonaro
JULIO DA CUNHA
From: LACLUBAR, MANATUTO
ZITO (TOZY) GONCALVES
HEAD BARISTA AND ROASTER
Tozy grew up surrounded by coffee. Every year, he helped his parents handpick the red cherries off trees rounding their mountain home. They would sell to local buyers at just US0.35 cents/kg. One day his friend told him that Agora Food Studio was looking for new baristas. He had no idea what a barista was, nor ever tried an espresso coffee before. Within just a few months, he developed a real feel for tasting coffee and operating coffee machines. More importantly he revealed his intuition for working with, and mentoring his teammates. His curiosity, earnestness and ability to taste flavors landed him the position as our Head Barista.
COFFEE SENSORY ANALYST AND BARISTA
2017 & 2018 NATIONAL BARISTA CHAMPION
An incredible palate and vocabulary for describing the quality of coffee. Julia is developing a coffee flavour wheel for Timor-Leste, with reference flavours that better represent flavours and textures that exist in the broader tropical region. Coffee, especially cold brew, is Julia's passion. it is not unusual for her to create new drink ideas at 2am in the morning.
Julia just completed her undergraduate degree in Finance, specialising in tax - her favourite topic.
From: laga, baucau
Eat with us
Tuesday to Friday: 8am - 6pm
Saturday: 8am - 3pm
Sunday and Monday: Closed for market day and staff training.
Public Holidays: Please check our Facebook Page
Special events and Taste of Timor Workshops upon request (phone 7785 9912 to secure your booking).
Lorosa'e English Language Institute (LELI)
Kampung Alor. Dili. Timor-Leste
Located behind the Mosque. Enter the small street in between Castaways Restaurant and Centro Supermarket