For this week’s blog, we return to South America once again as we take a closer look at the coffee produced by Ecuador! Ecuador lies on the west coast of South America, between Colombia and Peru. The country of Ecuador existed as a Spanish colony for nearly 300 years, eventually gaining its independence in 1822. Relatively late to the coffee scene, coffee was first brought to Ecuador in 1860 in the province of Manabí. Nearly half a century later, Ecuador was finally began exporting coffee from the port city of Manta. Coffee production in Ecuador saw a substantial increase in 1920 when a disease destroyed much of the country’s cocoa crop and forced many farmers to make the switch to coffee. By 1985 Ecuador was producing 1.8 million bags of coffee annually, however, the world coffee crisis in the 1990s reduced the country’s coffee production to 1 million bags per year by 2011.
Most coffee drinkers in Ecuador prefer soluble or “instant” coffee. Ironically, domestic soluble coffee producers prefer to import Vietnamese coffees as they are cheaper. Meanwhile, most Ecuadorian coffees are exported to Colombia to be made into soluble coffee there. This is due to the significant amount of robusta that is produced in Ecuador as well as the generally lower quality of arabica coffee grown there.
Despite this, overall quality in Ecuadorian coffees is trending upward, resulting in some hidden gems being produced as well as strong potential for more specialty coffee production to develop. Though traceability is still difficult, those willing to put forth the effort are rewarded with coffees that are both sweet and complex accompanied by a pleasant acidity. Who knows, someday in the future Ecuador coffee may be able to make a name for itself on the world coffee scene!