Ecuador is a small nation which sits directly on the equator, allowing it to enjoy consistently warm temperatures all year round – even at the altitudes necessary to cultivate great Arabica. The country is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life, without around a sixth of the world’s species of bird making their home here. You’ll see similar variety across the biological board; there are more than four times as many species of plant and animal crammed into this tiny nation as there are in all of Europe!
Coffee was brought to Ecuador in the 1970s, and it remains one of the country’s most valuable exports, accounting for around four-fifths of total export volume. Of these exports, around two thirds are Arabica, with the remainder being Robusta.
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Producing Ecuador Coffee: Species and Varietals
Production in Ecuador takes place in several different regions, including El Oro, Manabi, Morona Santiago, and Loja. Of these, the latter enjoys the best reputation among the locals. Coffee is grown here at 1000-2000 metres above sea level, which is perfect for Arabica. Consequently, around a fifth of the country’s Arabica is grown here. Similar attributes can be found in Pichancha and Zamora-Chinchipe, and a combination of typical, bourbon and caturra varietals are grown here. With the right development, and the enthusiasm of the young farmers who work here, it’s hoped that these regions will come to rival their more well-known counterpart.
Ecuadorian Arabica is predominantly processed using the natural method, which retains much of the mucilage on the bean, lending the coffee a rich, heavy flavour. For the most part, naturally-processed coffees in this part of the world are destined for the instant-coffee market, and do not undergo the selection process required to assure the quality of the drink. For this reason, it’s especially important to be choosy when sourcing Ecuadorian coffee. The best Ecuadorian Arabica is worth tracking down, however; it possesses a distinctive acidic quality that’s able to cut through even the most complex and heavy naturally-processed lots. With the right roast, it’s able to shine.
The Coffee Industry In Ecuador
Ecuador’s coffee industry has suffered slightly mixed fortunes in recent history – with the industry suffering a downturn during the nineties. Most coffee in Ecuador is produced in small estates of just a few hectares, and farmers are not provided with the same support that their rivals in other nations enjoy. Coffee is not a primary driver for the Ecuadorian economy, as it is in neighbouring Colombia, and so it’s often not given the attention it requires to truly thrive. Government funds are typically channelled into high-yield Robusta at the expense of quality – a policy which has seen Ecuador’s reputation for quality take something of an undeserved battering. Since the country made the switch to the US dollar in 2000, the cost of production has risen slightly, placing further pressure on an already difficult industry.
Despite these challenges, Ecuador is capable of producing coffees to rival those produced anywhere on earth – and once these practical challenges are overcome, that potential is sure to be realised!