Improving coffee quality in the Ecuadorian Andes region

Improving coffee quality in the Ecuadorian Andes region

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In Ecuador, one of VECO´s core businesses is the development of the coffee value chain through improving the quality of high specialty coffee, defined as any coffee that scores above 80 points on a 100 point scale, so that farmers would receive a higher price in national and international markets. In support of this coffee programme, VECO collaborates with the municipality's Economic Development Agency of Quito to support coffee associations in the north-east of Quito. This collaboration has resulted in a study on the quality of high specialty coffee in the same area. Underlining key questions to the study are: “How can we improve the quality of Ecuadorian coffee?" and "How can we boost the market position of Ecuador as a producer of high specialty coffees?”, bearing in mind that Ecuador and particularly areas in the Andes Mountains have high potential for coffee growing due to its altitude and the presence of several microclimates. Nevertheless, at the same time, coffee is still a new crop in the north-east of Quito and there is still a long way to go to meet the high standard levels demanded by specialty coffee markets. With these considerations, technicians of VECO developed and conducted a framework to evaluate the effect of cultivating and post-harvest practices of coffee on the organoleptic cup quality. More specifically, the study was performed with three different coffee associations (AAPROCNOP, ASOPROCEP and AAPROCAFEP) in the north-east of Quito.

Based on statistical and GIS correlations between the cup quality and the (different) cultivating and post-harvest processing applied by the coffee farmers, the study concludes that the following elements are important to improve the coffee quality in the north-east of Quito:

  1. the use of a balanced and regular fertilization scheme and the related soil fertility level;
  2. the use of crop protection products;
  3. well calibrated and maintained coffee pulper machines;
  4. a decent technical design of the drying sheds that contains sufficient ventilation;
  5. the type of storage of the parchment coffee: a good piling of the parchment (on pallets, in a dry area, no contact with the walls) results in better coffee quality;
  6. the use of a phase of immersion in water (wet fermenting or soaking);
  7. lower the humidity level which negatively affects the quality: it is recommended to use shortly gas dryers to finalize the drying process, to improve the general design of the drying sheds and/or to increase the amount of times the parchment is moved daily on the drying tables;
  8. the impact of the marketing place of the coffee: one should avoid mixing different coffee micro lots and selling them all at the same price.

Other important results of the study are the ratings obtained in the coffee cupping process that reveal a minimum score of 72.2, a maximum of 87.5 and an average cupping score of 82.1. The findings have been shared with the participating coffee farmers, who also received the results of the soil analysis of their land parcels and the cup profile of their coffee. During the feedback sessions, the farmers participated in an introductory cupping course since the authors of the study, Audrey Claeys and Jonas Geeroms, highly recommend that farmer associations invest in capacity building in coffee cupping, in order to improve their knowledge of the product, be able to improve the quality and strengthen their negotiation position in the coffee chain. The framework of the study was developed in such a way that it can easily be replicated in other geographical areas or countries in the future. The study is available online in Spanish, with an English summary at page 46-49,

The study is available online in Spanish, with an English summary at page 46-49,