Hernán Zúñiga and family purchased 20 hectares of land in Nanegalito four decades ago. Vista Hermosa became established as a coffee farm in 2012 and four hectares of space are dedicated to coffee production. Red and yellow caturra fruit is picked between the months of July and October. Each tree is quite young at five to six years old. Coffee fruit is depulped, fermented and dried on the farm and meticulously managed by Hernán. Before parchment coffee is sent to Quito to be dry milled, parchment is dried on African style raised beds. Tools to measure coffee humidity is used to determine the appropriate dryness percentage.
Ecuador has been part of Red Fox’s portfolio since the beginning, and we have longstanding relationships there that mean a lot to us. But it’s also a challenging origin for us, in that Ecuadorian coffee is very expensive, and expensive coffee is hard to sell. We pay more for coffee in Ecuador than we do in any other origin except Kenya. It’s hard to justify paying so much for South American coffee, especially when there’s a wealth of great coffee to be had for a fraction of the price in neighboring Colombia or Peru. It’s a challenge to make the case to customers that Ecuadorian coffee is worth the price, even when we’re offering beautiful, unique, and excellently prepared coffees from dedicated producers and inspiring farms.
Coffee farmers everywhere struggle with the cost of production, with access to credit and seasonal cash flow, but the particular economic and political realities in Ecuador make it a special case. Ecuador switched its currency to the US dollar in 2000, after hyperinflation and a banking crisis left the economy reeling. In recent years, the strong dollar has made Ecuadorian exports more expensive. That, plus the collapse of oil prices, on which Ecuador’s economy has depended since the 70s, has contributed to a decline in export revenues to which President Correa’s government has responded by restricting imports and raising taxes & tariffs on foreign goods. This matters to coffee producers and to the price of coffee because every truck, jeep, bag of fertilizer, and piece of machinery or farm equipment that has to be imported comes with an additional premium that drives up production costs.