Galo’s name has appeared in various regional and national cupping competitions in Ecuador, if not all-out winning then certainly placing top 3, and setting multiple price records to boot. This year, Morales is the proud first-place champion of Ecuador’s national quality competition, the Taza Dorada. His winning lot sold for an astounding $100 per pound – another record for Ecuadorian coffee prices. It’s official: Finca Cruz Loma is setting the standard for coffees from this region.
Principal harvest months in Pichincha and Imbabura are June to September, but farms often continue picking through December. Ecuador’s namesake position on the Earth’s equator means that medium-altitude coffee enjoys practically a perfect year-round growing season, often with flowering and ripe cherry sharing the same branch most months. For small farms this means a small but long-term labor force to manage the slow, perfectionistic work required for such a drawn-out harvest. In addition to coffee it is common for farms in this area to grow any combination of potatoes, plantains, corn, sugar cane, cacao, soursop and chirimoya, and heart of palm.
As everywhere in the coffee world, harvest on small farms typically involves the whole available family as well as hired pickers. Coffee in Pichincha and Imbabura is processed at home on personal equipment and dried on hand-made structures and greenhouses. In Cruz Loma’s careful and unique processing method, cherries are washed clean before fermenting in anaerobically sealed tanks for 24-48 hours. The coffee is then depulped and set to ferment in anaerobic tanks once again. After this multi-day process, the coffee is washed and set to dry on raised beds under shaded canopies.
Finca Cruz Loma is a 350-hectare plot in the community of San José de Minas, a small town in the northwestern part of Pichincha, a short trip north of Quito. The estate has been in Galo’s family going back 80 years. Galo’s experience in coffee began 20 years ago working alongside his mother on the farm; he would go on to work professionally in the coffee sector, for exporters and as a project manager, before returning to full-time farming. In Galo’s words, “cultivating my coffee is an activity that allows me to apply and develop the skills and habits I’ve learned over the years; it’s also an essential resource for my family, since my wife, my daughters, and myself are all involved with the production and marketing of our coffee. Everybody in the family has a critical role in the coffee’s success.”
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