A Conversation with: Stephen Levene of Coffee Quest

Coffee Quest and Sourcing Coffee from Ecuador

We sat down and spoke with Stephen Levene, the founder of Coffee Quest, to talk about coffees from Ecuador.

In comparison to its neighbor, Colombia, Ecuador produces a marginal amount of coffee. For reference, Ecuador produces somewhere around 600,000 bags of coffee per year whereas Colombia produces around 13-14 million bags.

Stephen founded Coffee Quest about eight years ago, which is a coffee importer/exporter company working with Ethiopian and Latin American producers. We often buy coffee from Coffee Quest, including our most recent lineup of Ecuadorian coffees.

We purchased coffees of the Mejorado and Sidra varieties from the Merino Family at the Lugmapata Farm. However, as Stephen notes in our interview, these varietal names are colloquial names; Sidra is actually an Ethiopian landrace, and Mejarado is a cross-breed of typical Bourbon and Ethiopian landrace. It turns out, the origin of these varieties comes from Nestle who incentivized Ecuadorian producers to grow these varieties.

We might be inclined to turn our nose at the fact that Nestle is somehow involved in the proliferation of these varieties, however, they've been a great conduit for the North of Ecuador where there is less altitude to reliably produce high-quality coffees.

The Lugmapata Farm is at the center of Ecuador, resting at about 1750masl. To the south, lies coffee-producing regions with much higher altitudes as compared to the north. As Stephen notes, it is altitude plus variety that often speaks to the cupping quality of a coffee. Therefore, you'd expect that the higher-quality coffee inevitably comes out of the south of Ecuador. However, thanks to varieties like Sidra and Mejorado, the north is able to compete despite its lower altitude.

It would be almost a habit to prescribe a typical profile to 'Ecuadorian' coffee, as we discuss in the interview, but this is not so easy to do. Not only are there regional differences across all of Ecuador, including varying altitude levels, but there are also widely varying processing methods as well. This leads to quite a variance of flavour profiles in across different Ecuadorian coffees.

Watch the video

Watch the video above to listen to the conversation between Alex at Subtext, and Stephen Levene from Coffee Quest, to learn more about Ecuador and its coffee industry.

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