The Café Imports Barista Origin Trip continues through Ecuador
After visiting coffee farms and mills in the north of Ecuador, yesterday the Café Imports Barista Origin Trip crew departed the lovely Finca Primavera in the Carchi Region (situated along the northeast border with Colombia) and headed back to Quito to catch a flight to the coast and the metropolis of Guayaquil.
Along the way, we were able to make a brief stop at an open-air market so the barista champions could pick up some souvenirs and hand-made crafts to commemorate their trip.
After we landed in Guayaquil, we found out that word had spread the champion baristas were in town (and after the super-successful barista jam a couple of days ago in Quito) the local coffee community here also wanted a chance to meet the champs.
We drove over to a modern cafe in an upscale mall, and we were greeted immediately by a large group of coffee pros representing the regions cafés, roasters and suppliers. They asked World Champion Hide Izaki to make them some drinks and he graciously obliged. He was swarmed by locals with their phones aloft as they all wanted a picture and drink crafted by him.
Today we took a turn away from the world of Arabica coffee and checked out a new development just outside of Guayaquil. Here in the low coastal altitude Arabica coffee won’t thrive, so some farmers are investing in a robusta plantation using drip irrigation (the area only receives about 500ml of rainfall a year!). It was interesting to see, and the difference in the plants was obvious and profound.
The production that goes with robusta (and its hugely increased yield over Arabica) meant that the plants’ branches were heavy with fruit and blossoms. The whole plant will be picked clean at once (both ripe and unripe cherries pulled off) as the cost of paying for handpicking is such that it’s uneconomical to make multiple passes.
Each plant produces almost 8 times the cherry as an Arabica, and though it fetches a lower price, the higher production means it makes financial sense for some farmers to go with robusta. The government of Ecuador, however, is putting its coffee development money on supporting high-grade Arabica, hoping that increased demand for specialty coffees will make the effort pay off for farmers down the road as the origin develops a reputation for excellent coffees.
Another plant that does well in the environmental conditions found along the coast is cocoa. We visited a farm that has been under development for four years (about the time it takes for a cocoa plant to begin producing fruit.)
Much like specialty coffee farmers, these cocoa farmers are trying to make a name for themselves by doing high-end (or in cocoa terminology fragrant aroma) plants which currently make up only 5% of the world market. They are also investigating different processing methods to see if they can find better and more refined chocolate tastes. It was quite interesting to see and the parallels to coffee were clear.
After that we went to the hacienda for lunch, and the baristas found themselves enjoying the beautiful farm, relaxing in the shade and riding the homemade zipline! All in all, another terrific couple of days in this beautiful origin.