Ecuador

Coffee has a long history in Ecuador. It was introduced in the early 19th century and became its main export in the early 20th century. But coffee from Ecuador has never been included in the list of top quality coffee origins, mostly because of poor harvesting and processing practices.

Like other nearby coffee-growing nations, Ecuador has ideal altitudes and climate for coffee, and a lot of old heirloom Typica variety trees. A great Ecuador coffee is balanced, bright, and has a clean taste overall. Ecuador has moderate body, and can feature floral notes on rare occasions. Like its neighbors, Ecuador is harvested counter to the Central America crop, so it arrives in the US at an ideal time to replace Centrals that might be getting tired in the cup.

But coffee has taken a back seat in Ecuador. As other Ecuadorian exports (bananas, oil, shrimp) exceeded coffee in importance, hope that the quality of the coffee would improve dimmed. They managed to continue to ship low grade arabica and robusta coffees, finding a market among the institutional and commercial roasters of the U.S. and Europe who are more concerned with price than cup quality. Low grade arabicas are dry-processed in Ecuador, called "bola," and have a hard, earthy flavor. I found that some supermarket roasted/ground coffees like Pilon and Bustelo use a lot of Ecuador bola coffee. But coffee formerly employed about 15% of the rural population.

As I mentioned, Ecuador has everything it takes to grow great coffee. Positioned between Colombia and Peru, the interior mountain ranges have plenty of altitude, good weather patterns, and ideal soil for coffee. But a great coffee can be ruined at any stage in the process, from the tree to the cup. Many of the problems are with a lack of adherence to quality standards in the wet-processing, drying, resting (reposo) and then dry-milling of the coffee. A bit too much fermentation in the wet mill tanks, a rain storm drenching the coffee when it is on the drying patios, moist low-altitude conditions during the reposo, or badly adjusted dry-mill equipment can all ruin a wonderful coffee.

Poor infrastructure, delays in shipment, tainted shipping containers ... there is one way to produce good coffee and a thousand ways to ruin it! So the new efforts by the Ecuadorian Agriculture Department and farmer Co-operatives focus on education, improved equipment, and adherence to high standards.
I did travel to Ecuador a while back, and we take at least 2 trips a year since then. Check out the travelogue section of our Coffee Library page for the photos.

No coffees are currently available from this origin. The review is our most recent offering, provided for reference.
Ecuador Organic Zamora
Unique bags used for storing our Ecuador Zamora lot
Appearance.2 d/300gr, 15+ PB Screen
GradeSHG
ProcessingWet Process (Washed)
RegionZamora-Chinchipe
Varietal(s)Bourbon
RoastAlthough versatile the big fruit in this coffee will be captured at or close to a City level.
Zamora-Chinchipe is the Easternmost province of Southern Ecuador. It's where the arid, rocky Ecuadorian Andes jet into the Amazon Rainforest. Just east of Loja is the town of Zamora that essentially marks that divide. Typically, precipitous areas like this are not very conducive for growing, processing and drying exceptional coffees. Zamora is an enigma proving that these hurdles can be overcome. We've been buying coffee from this region for 4 years now and consistently receive great quality. We work with a group that now has over 120 members with altitudes ranging from 1350 masl to over 1900 masl. Some of the Bourbon I've tasted from this group are some of the finest coffees I've tasted from the entire continent. Our Zamora lot is comprised of Bourbon, Caturra and Typica. Its a masterful, complex blend of some of the world's finest components. Coffee farmer member of this group manually depulp their beans from their cherries, ferment for approximately 18 hours, wash by hand and dry on raised, parabolic beds. This a coffee with big fruit and lingering sweetness. Zamora is sweet like cacao nibs and dried stone fruits in the dry fragrance. Apricot and plum are most apparent. Ripe plum and candied fig perfume the the break on a coffee that has deep sweetness across the board in the aromatics. Darker sweetness like date sugar. A city roast of Zamora is brimming with fruit. Raisin and prune and even date are most apparent when warm with yellow fruits like Apricot and plum appearing as the coffee cools. Those darker fruits, especially raisin are most dominant in the City+ roast. Sweetness is a major player in this coffee. The lighter roast is like rock candy with a burnt sugar note coming out with more development. Zamora has medium body. It has a juiciness to its texture that ties in very nicely with the aforementioned flavor and acidity. This coffee is quite versatile showing extremely well as drip and as espresso.