After a short but sweet trip, I’m feeling much more in tune with what Ecuador has to offer the specialty coffee world. In terms of size, Ecuador is tiny compared to its big coffee-growing neighbours (Brazil, Peru and Colombia) which is part of the reason we see so few Ecuadorian coffees in our market.
This also makes it even more important for this small South American country to develop its own specific and unique coffee identity to help differentiate and add value to its product. What they can’t make up for in volume, they are trying very hard to make up for in quality. They are blessed with all the right coffee growing parameters — very high altitudes (which can range all the way up to 2200masl), volcanic soils and old Typica varieties. On top of that, the majority of coffee producers here are quite small and hands on, so there’s lots of potential for a really high-end, focused product.
At the moment, many producers are just beginning to understand the importance of processing and how to take what their surroundings naturally offer and turn it into a coffee which is distinct and highly sought after.
The path from cherry to exportable coffee is slowly changing here, and the coffees are becoming clearer and more defined. Many of the profiles I tasted while judging the Taza Dorada (annual Golden Cup competition) were in the mid-ranges with medium body, chocolatey, caramel notes and soft rounded acidity. However, at their peak they offered some very juicy, complex, floral and fruity washed coffees which were memorable and would have a great usability as either single origin espresso or high-end filter options.
Keen to do my part, I’ve brought back the top ten winners from the Taza Dorada 2013. We will be running a cupping event in early November in both Vic and WA in conjunction with Pro Ecuador for those of you who would like to taste them for yourselves.