I have friends that just returned from Ecuador. Like any good friends, they brought me back coffee fresh from the source. I was excited to get it home and try it, as I’ve never tried coffee from Ecuador. Coffee is very much like wine, in that it takes a sample of the world’s offering to fully appreciate every flavor and variety.
Coffees of Ecuador
Ecuador is one of the top 20 producers of coffee in the world. Although the country itself is small, its varied ecology makes it possible to cultivate all of the varieties of coffee within its borders, including premium Arabica beans and less-expensive Robusta beans.
Coffee cultivation and export is a significant portion of the country’s economy. While they presently export to the US as well as all over the world, it is not very prevalent in the US. As a result, very little is written about its unique qualities, and to the best of my knowledge, this would be my first cup of coffee from Ecuador.
The packaging of my friends’ coffee is entirely in Spanish and I am definitely not smarter than a fifth grader yet in Spanish. But, I know key words so I gave “reading” about the coffee my best shot. Naturally, I could see that it was produced by El Tostador, Cafe Tostado y Molido, where my friends bought it in Ecuador.
The first thing I noticed is that the words Arabica or Robusta were not printed anywhere on the package. My rule of thumb when I see this is that it is probably cheaper Robusta beans. After all, you would promote that you are selling Arabica beans, so if nothing is said, I assume it’s Robusta. However, I was able to identify from the packaging, the region where the coffee was grown…the province of Loja. The variety of coffee grown in Loja is Arabica – great news.
The frest-roasted coffee was ground to order for my friends who brought back a pound for themselves, and brought back a pound for me. It was ground fine, so I’ve been preparing it by pourover moreso than by press pot, since you would generally use a coarse ground coffee in the press pot to avoid overextraction (sludge).
In the end, I couldn’t help but take some of the Spanish from the packaging to a translation website, which told me:
“From the quality coffee plantations of the highlands of the province of Loja, a tradition of flavor and natural fragrance is born.”
Ecuador has a couple challenges in order to have its coffee included in the list of Specialty Coffee origins. First, it hasn’t actively promoted itself as a source of fine coffee to the US market, and promotes itself in the European market mainly on price. The climate of Ecuador is similar in characteristics to other countries who produce well-recognized coffee. This leads to the second challenge, that the country’s harvesting and processing standards are not as tightly regulated by the state since other exports, such as bananas, have increased in importance.
I was happy for the opportunity to try a new coffee I hadn’t tried before. The only way to truly appreciate the world of coffee is to try coffees from around the world.