Coffee production in Ecuador is one of only 15 countries in the world that grows and exports both Arabica and Robusta coffee, the two main species of coffee produced and consumed in the world. Different ecosystems in Ecuador permit different coffee cultures to occur all over the country, including in the Galápagos Islands.
- Size – 283,561 sq km
- Capital City – Quito
- Main Port Cities – Guayaquil
- Population – 16,080,778 (July 2016)
- Language/s Spoken – Castilian Spanish (official), Quechua
Coffee production in Ecuador
- Population Involved in Coffee – 105,000 families
- Average Farm Size – < 1–4 hectares
- Bags Exported Annually – 640,000–680,000 bags
Coffee Ecuador Profile
- Growing Regions – Carchi, El Oro, Loja, Galapagos, Manabi, Pichincha, Zamora-Chinchipe
- Common Varieties – Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Sidra
- Processing Method – Washed, Natural, some Honey and experimental processes
- Bag Size – 50–60 kg
- Harvest Period – Throughout the year
- Typical Arrival – September–October
History Coffee Ecuador Coffee
Coffee came to Ecuador in the middle of the 19th century, planted in the low-altitude region of Manabi, which ranges from 500–700 meters. The region is still the largest area for Arabica production, producing about 50 percent of the country’s Arabica yield, though better-quality Arabica can be found elsewhere, at higher elevation.
Importing coffee in Ecuador
Coffee didn’t become a major commercial venture in Ecuador until the late 1920s, when the cacao industry was threatened by disease—even then, coffee has largely remained an afterthought to the national economy, and production dropped greatly during the price crises of the 1990s and in the early 2000s. Ecuador’s economy is largely reliant on petroleum, and less so on agriculture than many other coffee-growing countries.
Another somewhat strange fact about Ecuador’s coffee industry is that the country imports more than it grows or sells: A large soluble-coffee industry demands that very inexpensive Robusta be purchased from Vietnam to meet domestic consumption needs, while Ecuadorians sell their own green Robusta to nearby coffee-producing countries (like Colombia) at a higher price for their instant-coffee use.
Difficulties in coffee production
The country’s elevation ranges from sea level all the way to above 2,000 meters—a wide-ranging difference of terrain and climate that, combined with the specific challenges equated with its location on the Equator, provide a unique—but not impossible to overcome—challenges. Selective harvesting is especially difficult
Due to the country’s location on the Equator, the coffee needs to be harvested throughout the year. A branch will often contain all stages of the coffee’s developmental cycle in one: green coffee, ripe coffee, and blossoms side by side. This forces a farmer to hold some coffee, while processing and harvesting enough for export, and it also leads to higher labor costs due to the extended picking cycle.
The effects of climate
Another significant challenge is climate change. Since this country is prone to such delicate shifts in whether due to the altitude and Equator, jungle to the east and ocean to the west, slight climatic changes have a huge impact on the farmland. Areas that are used to seeing fog in the mornings and sun in the afternoon are now shrouded in fog all day long, which prevents even drying on patios. Farms that have been accustomed to a lot of sun in some cases are seeing temperatures and exposure rise too high and the climate too try to produce the same quality as in previous years. Adaptation is a must for farmers here.
Positive Change in Ecuador Coffee
Starting in the first decade of the 2000s, however, the specialty boom happening in neighboring Colombia and even in northern Peru inspired entrepreneurial coffee producers to invest in good Arabica varieties, improved practices—picking ripe and better processing, rather than simply letting the coffee dry on the tree as café en bola, the traditional method – and advanced marketing strategies. Increasingly, single-farm, single-variety, and innovating processing lots are finding their way to forward-thinking mills, exporters, importers, and roasters.
The Promise of Sidra
One of the most interesting developments to happen in Ecuadoran soil is the appearance of a new cultivar, called Sidra. A cross between a Bourbon and a Typica variety (themselves genetically relatively closely related), these coffees can express a very unique fruity, floral characteristics. When grown at higher altitudes and processed meticulously, these coffees stand out on the cupping table, and have the potential to bring Ecuador into the spotlight as a specialty-producing country.