Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #17.
Coffee from Ecuador is something you don’t see every day. In fact, I think I’ve seen more places offering coffee from the Galapagos Islands (which are Ecuadorian) than from the mainland. So I was surprised to see it offered at Caribou Coffee. Their limited edition coffees are known as the Roastmaster’s Reserves, and the current selection is Ecuador Changaimina, from the southern province of Loja (red on map).
Coffee has been grown in Ecuador for generations. The lowlands produce robusta, but the high mountain regions produce decent arabicas. Most of the high-grown coffee, from Loja province, is grown on small farms with very little use of chemicals. The major co-op in this area is PROCAP (Asociación Agroartesanal de Productores de Café de Altura Puyango), an
organization of 380 families of which about two-thirds are certified organic. The organic coffee from this co-op is sometimes marketed as shade grown Puyango (Puyango is a canton, or subdivision, in the province, and the most important coffee-growing area in Loja, if not the whole country). Typica, bourbon, and caturra are the most frequently grown varieties, usually all grown on the same farm.
The lack of Ecuador beans in the market has been due to a lack of attention to proper harvesting and processing, and the expense of transportation from the highlands to the ports. A lot of Ecuadorian coffee goes to making instant coffee, so the large corporate coffee roasters are major buyers of Ecuadorian coffee. Improvements have been made in production methods, and farmers are aiming more for the specialty coffee market, hence we may be seeing more Ecuadorian coffee in the coming years.
Based on this Caribou Ecuador Changaimina, we cannot say the region is quite ready for prime time. This wasn’t bad coffee, just unremarkable. At the first tasting, three of us sat there sipping silently, unable to come up with much to say. The next day, I sent the Kingfisher off with it in his travel mug. I asked him later what he thought of it. He sort of summed up the whole experience when he replied, “I don’t remember.” Not a strong endorsement, but considering you tend to remember bad coffee, not a strong condemnation, either. 2.25 motmots.