Tucked away in the lush mountains of Zamora-Chinchipe (South Ecuador) are many small villages and farms on 1,100 to 1,900m above sea level. Shortly before 5am the first rooster starts crowing that’s when Wilfrido Franklin Abad wakes up. He is 38 years old and has five children. His home is about 20mins away from the tiny town Zumba, close to the border with Peru. Daily rain showers are common in this area, which is optimal for coffee growing but not so pleasant when he is driving his motorbike, and sometimes roads turn muddy on more persistent rainy days.
Wilfrido is a small holder farmer, one out of 135 who are part of the coffee cooperative ACRIM, founded in Zumba in early 2000 and currently represented by six community groups. The cooperative is certified organic by USDA and Öko-Garantie BCS, and it is Fair Trade certified as well. ACRIM belongs to the bigger federation FAPECAFES. There are many benefits of being part of a coffee cooperative, such as providing education, training and technical support to ensure excellent production quality and helping farmers to promote their coffees on the international market while guaranteeing their fair compensation.
ACRIM has its own well-equipped cupping lab and relies on the coffee expertise of Wilfrido, who has been their cupper for about 8.5 years. Farmers who bring their coffee to ACRIM usually look for Wilfrido. He first does a physically analysis by appearance, smell, humidity and number of defects. All steps are transparent with the farmer being present. Coffee beans will be mechanically dried at ACRIM, if the beans don’t have the optimal moisture content of 10-12%.
Wilfrido is very passionate, detailed oriented, calm and charismatic. He runs quality assurance according to SCAA standards, sample roasts on a Probat 100g sample roaster, weighs meticulously the optimal ratio of 8.25grams coffee per 150ml hot water and uses standard cupping forms to evaluate all coffees. Farmers usually return within 1-2 days to receive feedback on their coffees. Wilfrido has an immense knowledge on all the steps from cultivating, harvesting, processing, storing and roasting coffee, which is of great value to drive further quality improvements. Additionally, he provides regular training sessions to farmers and we were able to attend a two-day course with him. Photos are available on instagram.
Almost every farm in Zamora-Chinchipe is organic and shade-grown, and the farmers we have met are extremely proud of it, as it preserves a biodiverse ecosystem and is often bird-friendly. Farmers here typically own 1-3 hectares of land. The majority of the coffee is washed, some are natural processed (or called locally cafe bola) and a few farmers started trying out honey processing. The biggest problem some farmers face is the coffee leaf rust (known as roya) Wilfrido told us, and a few farms above 1500m have to deal with the coffee borer. Many farms are experimenting with different processing methods and coffee varieties to improve cup quality and optimise their coffee for export.
Annual competitions like Taza Dorada, equivalent to Cup of Excellence in other countries, and Bracamoros incentivise farmers to focus on quality as everybody is keen to get recognition for their hard work and a higher price is paid for their exceptional coffees. Bracamoros is a local event organized by ACRIM and APECAP, another coffee cooperative, and takes place alternating in Zumba and Palanda. This summer everybody is looking forward to the 8th edition.
Together with Wilfrido, we have cupped more than a dozen coffees, which mostly scored between 81 and 84 points. The coffees were fruity and sweet, with bright citric acidity. The better coffees are yet to arrive in the coming months, as the harvest period gets into full swing. We are looking for specialty coffee with at least 85 or more points.
We have brought along a Spanish version of the new coffee taster’s flavour wheel, developed by SCAA and World Coffee Research. It helped us to discuss with Wilfredo the various cup characteristics.
The best way to get in touch with Wilfrido is to meet him at the ACRIM office. He loves preparing coffee in a plunger and offers a great cup of coffee to visitors. One of the perks of working in a cupping lab is always having freshly roasted coffee.
We had the pleasure to collaborate with him over the past two weeks. We have received a warm welcome from farmers we have visited so far, and are looking forward to visit more. Updates from our farm visits will follow soon on our blog.