In the early 19th century coffee was first introduced to Ecuador, where it remained it’s largest export crop up until the 1970’s. After the 1970’s and continuing through today, oil, shrimp, and bananas have become Ecuador’s main exports. Today, Ecuador accounts for less that 1% of the world’s coffee production as the amount of land in cultivation and crops going unharvested began rising in the 1980’s. The decline in the coffee industry became especially sharp for Ecuador in 1997, when coffee production decreased sharply and pricing dropped – thus becoming unprofitable for many farmer to continue with. However, there are still about half a million people that rely still on coffee production as its main profit, and unfortunately the life of a coffee farmer in Ecuador currently is often a life of poverty and leads to farm abandonment and the families relocating, often to Spain, Italy, or the US in search of other sources of income.
Unfortunately, Ecuador has not received a lot of help in the failing coffee farms. Coffee farms only yield about 5-6 quintales per hectare per year, which is about half of what other countries yield per some land area. The government of Ecuador did support the formation of the National Coffee Council and imposed a 2% surcharge on all coffee exports, however farmers have attested that they have seen little if any extra cash flow from this. The National Coffee Council has not been known to act on its mission statements as of yet and provide support in training, technology, or agriculture – assistance that is greatly needed in order for coffee production to move forward in Ecuador. Some have even said that The National Coffee Council has even contributed to the further decline of the industry by focusing more on coffee brokering than helping coffee cultivation and small farmers.
Ecuador has all the right ingredients for coffee cultivation – high elevation from mountain ranges between Columbia and Peru, good weather patterns, and ideal soil. Arabica, Robusta, and Typica are the varietals grown on the small farms. It’s common for coffee from Ecuador to have defects, not necessarily from the growth process, but from the processing methods, i.e. coffee that is sun drying being rained upon, old or badly adjusted mill equipment, or over-fermentation during the milling process. However, a good cup of Ecuador coffee can have a medium to bold intensity presented, a clean and crisp flavor, and have citrus, tea, and cocoa notes.
Key Ecuador Coffee Profile Notes
Varietals: Arabica, Typica, Robusta
Grow Regions: western foothills of the Andes south of Guayaquil, and in the hilly areas of coastal Manabí Province
General Cup Profile: medim to strong body, clean, cocoa, citrus, tea notes