Ecuador is often regarded as being one of the worlds highest quality coffee-producing nations, so you'll be surprised to learn it's still a very new venture for a large part of the country. Historically, coffee has been produced in the southern regions of Ecuador, which borders Peru, whilst the west is famous for high quality Robusta coffee. Robusta makes up 80% of the total coffee exports from Ecuador, and could be considered the root cause for the lack of specialty coffee production.
We visited two of the specialty producing regions in Ecuador: Loja and Pichincha. The focus in Loja has been to show producers how to prepare coffee at a specialtly grade. Our local guide, Lucas Vera, is teaching famers techniques learned from other specialty coffee-producing countries. His number one concern in Loja is the lack of education about fertilisation (we visited one farm that hadn't applied any form of substance to the ground in 40 years). This generally isn't an issue for most coffee producers, living in tropical climates, but poses potential hurdles for the region of "desert-like" Loja. Lukas offers a simple solution; use the water and cherry husk from the pulping process, mix it with organic matter produced on the farm (meat scraps, fruit, and vegetables), and make a natural compost. Lukas is confident that repeating this process over the course of three years will improve the coffee quality by up to 15%, and that the trees could improve production by 50%.
Lukas is confident that repeating this process over the course of three years will improve the coffee quality by up to 15%
As Pichincha is a new coffee-producing region, it brings with it some problems. A lack of coffee-producing history means a lack of education about coffee production, and a lack of people in coffee labour makes finding pickers during harvest season extremely challenging. Luckily, the high elevation and healthy soil provides the perfect climate for growing coffee, and this 'fresh slate' has aided producers in Pichincha to learn new techniques.
We are working with two producers in Pichincha: Mario Hervas of Finca Meridiano, and Dilma Ponche of La Julia. Mario has been an agronomist for over 17 years, working with large-scale rose farms, and has applied much of this knowledge to the running of the coffee farm, which is a showpiece of innovation. He and his wife also run a small ice cream business in the south of Quito, so their tenacity is very commendable!
Dilma Ponche is new to the coffee-farming scene, and her whole farm is only two and half years old. She was intrigued by a number of her friends planting coffee, and decided to learn as much as she could, purchasing 4 hectares of land off her brother to start the farm. A coffee tree reaches full maturity at three years, old and it's not often that the first harvest is of such high quality. We are looking forward to working with Dilma for the foreseeable future, and cannot wait to share with you the coffee and stories of Ecuador! Keep an eye on our website - caravancoffeeroasters.co.uk - for their arrival!
By Steven Hall