Enticing aromatics of mild florals, vanilla wafer cookie, and dried mango introduce a beautifully nuanced cup offering a refreshingly tea-like mouthfeel and flavors of green apple, raspberry, and lemon.
Specialty coffees from Ecuador are expensive, and for important reasons. While exports of commodity and soluble coffees have declined in recent years, specialty lots, such as this mejorado variety separation from Jaime Ponce, represent a growing segment of the Ecuadorian coffee industry, an industry distinguished by nationally-guaranteed worker rights that are soberingly absent in many countries where specialty coffee is routinely purchased at significantly lower prices.
In recent years, the finest Ecuadorian coffees that we have had the opportunity to taste have tended to be separations of one of two Arabica varieties: Sidra and ‘Typica’ Mejorado. This particular selection, an immaculate example of the Mejorado variety, is the first coffee that Passenger has purchased from Jaime Ponce, a coffee producer whose farm, Los Tucanes, is located in Pichincha province, surrounding Ecuador’s capital city of Quito.
While Typica Mejorado (usually translated as ‘Improved’ Typica) is the most commonly used name for the Mejorado variety, the name is somewhat misleading due to the fact that recent genetic testing indicates that the variety is not a Typica at all. The variety was developed on an experimental plot owned by Nestle and is actually a cross of a Bourbon-type variety and an Ethiopian landrace - providing some explanation for the elegant layers of florals, citrus, and ripe fruity notes that Mejorado lots often exhibit in the cup.
It is no exaggeration to say that overall coffee production in Ecuador is in a state of dramatic decline. According to the most recent annual coffee report from the US Department of Agriculture, green coffee exports have decreased by a staggering 88% since 2013. Decreasing competitiveness in the international commodity and soluble coffee markets, coupled with the consistently high production costs that all Ecuadorian coffee farmers face, contribute to a current reality where specialty Arabica production is one of the few remaining pockets of the industry with observable growth in recent years.
We love Ecuadorian coffees. At their best, they offer a unique balance of delicate, browning sugar sweetness, floral qualities, and clean, fruit-driven acidity that is reminiscent of our favorite East African coffees. And, in addition to the beautiful coffees and accomplished producers such as Jaime Ponce that characterize its specialty industry, Ecuador’s national labor laws offer an important challenge to all stakeholders in the coffee supply chain. By requiring that all full-time coffee workers receive a fair minimum wage, health care, and paid time off, Ecuador offers a model of coffee production where comparatively high green coffee prices result from a more equitable labor market in the country of origin.