Juliana Nobre and I have met up in Ecuador and are currently attending the 2013 ‘Aromas del Ecuador’ trade show in Guayaquil. There is a nice mix of specialty coffee and cocoa producers on display, as well as the national barista competition running in conjunction with the show.

Last year, I spent some time exploring some of the southern Ecuadorian coffee regions around Loja and I left with a handful of micro-lots and high hopes. Without knowing much about what sort of coffees Ecuador had to offer, I was pleasantly surprised to find really high altitude coffees and classic varieties (lots of Bourbon and Typica) with some exceptional cup qualities (85-89 point coffees). As it turns out, in comparison to its neighbours (most notably Peru), Ecuador has the capacity to produce considerably less coffee. This reduced coffee production combined with good internal demand means prices are high and availability is limited. Hence the reality that Ecuadorian specialty coffees are not extremely common on cafe menus in Australia.

This year, Juliana and I are here to judge the 7th annual Taza Doroda (Golden Cup). The competition is open to all coffee farmers who are willing to submit at least ten bags of coffee. Much like the Cup of Excellence (but on a much smaller scale), the competition goes through a series of jury panels beginning with the national cuppers. The national cuppers narrowed the field from nearly 90 entrants to the 40 remaining options which we are now cupping over the next three days. We are getting ready for Round Two today, and then it’s on to final day where we will cup the top ten coffees. After that, the winners will be announced and we will have the opportunity to place a bid on our favourite lots.

So far so good! We’ve already found some really exciting coffees and, as is often the case with internal cupping competitions, being involved in judging is a great way to connect with entrepreneurial specialty farmers who are chasing excellence and putting themselves out there.

Ecuador feels very much like it’s positioned to be a supplier of quality over quantity, and the country is well placed to provide high end/unique micro-lots if you know what to look for.

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