General Cup Profile
Ecuadorean coffee can some of the most interesting and unique cups on the planet. Ecuadorean Arabica coffee is largely Typica variety, which has a distinctive acidity and overall extremely balanced cup. Ecuadorean coffee is also an incredible espresso when roasted properly. The body and distinctive acidity, when magnified as espresso, can create a viscous and lively cup unlike any other.
Loja is one of the most important coffee producing regions in Ecuador with coffee at 1000–2000 meters. It produces 20% of the Arabica in the country and also has great quality potential. A great deal of the top coffees from Taza Dorada have been produced in this region with multiple first places as well.
Varieties: Typica, Bourbon, Caturra
Microregions: Olmedo, Quilanga, Vilcabamba, Chaguarpamba, Puyango, Celica, Paltas
Pichincha province is home to the capital city of Quito, which is located in the Andes Mountain range. This region produces the most diverse supply of products such as rice, cacao, yucca, plantain, palm oil, tropical fruits, and ornamental flowers.
It’s an up-and-coming coffee region, where we are seeing first-generation coffee producers with a completely different vision on what coffee agriculture is. Coffee is grown between 1000 and 1800 meters in this region.
Varieties: Typica Mejorado, Bourbon
Microregions: Pacto, Mindo, and Gualea.
Zamora Chinchipe is on the eastern side of the country and has territory in both western and eastern Andes Mountain Range. Its main economic activities are agriculture, livestock, and mining. There is still a lot of bartering going on especially with agricultural products.
This region has a good volume of organic-certified coffees, and cultivates coffee between 800–1800 meters.
Varieties: Typica, Bourbon, Caturra
Micro-regions: Pangui, Chinchipe, Palanda, Zamora
Carchi is located in north-central Ecuador bordering Nariño, Colombia. Due to its proximity to Colombia, they’ve been influenced by their coffee practices. For example, Variedad Colombia and Castillo are extremely popular for producers, due to their rust resistance and cup potential. Coffee is grown between 1200–1800 meters.
Varieties: Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Castillo
The province of Manabi is located on the coast of Ecuador, on the Pacific Ocean, between 200–700 meters. It is known for its beaches and great ceviche. Almost half of the country’s Arabica production comes from this lower-altitude region. Most of the coffee here is processed as a low-quality natural or bola.
Microregions: Jipijapa, Pajan, 24 de Mayo, and Jama.
Insular Province of Galapagos
The Archipelago of Columbus, better known as the Insular Province of Galapagos, is a range of islands situated between 900–1200 kms to the west of the Ecuadorean mainland. The Insular province of Galapagos provides the world with a unique ecosystem of flora and fauna. Coffee is produced at a range of 300–400 meters. The cup is characterized by the mysteries of the Pacific Ocean.
Located in the southwest, its climate is one of the tropical monsoon. Many producers are organic-certified here. Altitudes range between 500–1300 meters.
This region also produces other products, such as rice, beans, maize, sugar cane, bananas, cacao, and commercial shrimp. It is also known for its archaeological sites.
Microregions: Balsas, Las Lajas, Marcabeli, Zaruma, and Piñas.
Only 15% of the whole Arabica production undergoes the washed process. The rest (85%) gets processed as natural, or, as they call it locally, ,em>café bola. This is a low-quality natural that does not go through selective picking. The volume of this coffee is so high in order to sustain Ecuador’s massive instant-coffee market.
Most producers process their own coffee in their back yards with an artisanal depulper. The newer producers have installed newer technology like the Colombian Penagos.
There is a shortage of dry mills in Quito; as of 2015, there was only one qualified dry mill. There are various in Guayaquil, which is located in the Pacific Coast (hot and humid!) and in the South in Loja.
Coffee in Ecuador has been cultivated since 1860 in the Manabi region. Manabi continues to be the biggest producer of Arabica coffee in the country, with almost half of the total production. It is almost impossible to produce high quality coffee in this region mostly due to conditions such as lower altitude.
In the 1970s, Ecuador hit its production peak like many other Latin American coffee producing countries, but in the 1980s Ecuador got hit, like everyone else, with low market prices.
At the beginning of the 2000s their production tanked due to various reasons:
Ecuador has positioned itself as one of the major exporters of soluble coffee, currently in 4th position under Colombia. In 2014, 86% of their coffee exports were instant coffee (this is the biggest percentage in the world) and only 14% green coffee. Hence local governments are interested in high-yield production and are not looking for quality. Most government funds are going into Robusta plantations and low quality Arabica plantations and very few make it to high quality regions. Also, they promote and distribute lower quality varieties such as the hyper-producing Brazilian Catucai instead of varieties with good cup potential.
The government also lacks a solid coffee agency to promote good practices and give technical assistance to farmers, such as the Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC) in Colombia. This is due to lack of funding, and also the fact that coffee is not a primary agricultural activity in Ecuador (like it is in Colombia) getting overseen by many officials.
Some secondary issues are: climate conditions such as El Niño, migration to the United States causing lack of labor or lack of next generation farmers, and the recent dollarization of the country which has increased costs of production compared to its counterparts in Colombia and Peru.
Café Imports made its first half-container purchase from Ecuador in 2012. That year, Café Imports was the first to export and give access to the coffees of Pichincha, a new coffee growing region north of the capital city of Quito. In 2012, the washed Arabica exports of Ecuador were at around 100 containers. In 2014, their exports were down to 30 containers—and we bought 3 of these!
Buying coffee in Ecuador has been extremely challenging due to the low production. Many buyers have made attempts and have never filled a container, having to cancel their commitments or delay their exports by months.
All of the above challenges, but also having potential to produce great coffees at 90+ points, makes Ecuador exotic but at the same time a high-quality origin and this is why Ecuador is such an exciting and important origin to us!
We are extremely excited to give you access to some of the best coffee in Latin America, and have the widest selection of Ecuadorean coffees available.