Field Report: A Trip to Ecuador with the Barista Champions (Part 1)

photo 3By Laila Ghambari, 2014 U.S. Barista Champion Trekking around coffee farms with a group of fellow baristas sounds like a dream. Thanks to Café Imports, that dream has been made a reality for the U.S. regional, national and world barista champions. I've been waiting for this trip since the moment they announced my name at the Big Western Regional Barista Competition back in February. Although not my first trip to origin, this was my first to Ecuador, and I had a feeling this experience would be different than trips past.

photo 1After a full day of travel, we arrived in Quito very late at night. We took a drive on a winding road to the hotel and I fell asleep that night eager to wake up to my unknown surroundings.

Day 1

Quito sits at about 2800 masl. The view from the hotel room window is mountains to one side and a step decline to other, with the forest beneath covered by clouds. After morning greetings, breakfast, some elevations sickness, and Matcha KitKats from World Barista Champ Hide, we headed out.

We drove down to our first coffee farm (yeah drove down...crazy, right?), Las Cinco in the La Perla Nanegal region, produced by Fabian Lomas. The most exciting thing we learned about at this farm was a new variety found only in Ecuador called Sidra. Joe Marrocco had roasted some for us all to taste and I was blown away! Sidra is a hybrid of bourbon and typical, but tasted like a sweet floral geisha mixed with the tart red fruit acidity I often find in my favorite Colombians. Definitely an exciting development!

photo 2Then we headed to next farm, just a short distance away, called Finca Maputo. Here producer Henry Gaibor showed us his small processing set up. We walked his farms and climbed banana trees.

We ended the day at an adorable little lodge in mountains, drinking wine, telling our favorite competition stories, and  spending some time enjoying our first night together.

Day 2

Sachatamia is a lodge on a rainforest reserve, so a few of us woke up a little early to hike around the jungle looking at prehistoric ferns and beautiful bright colored birds and butterflies. We made a tourism stop at the sight of the equator line. We watched in awe as body builder J. Park Brannen (North Eastern Regional Champ) lost all his strength on the equator line due to the intensity of the gravitational pull.

photo 8After that we met with the beautiful Ena of Cafe Galletti, the only dry mill in northern Ecuador. There we toured the dry mill and cupped some beautiful coffees!

We enjoyed a beautiful lunch together in the historic center of Quito followed by a guided tour of the city.

We ended our second night with something none of us were prepared for. We were the special guests at Ecuador's first-ever barista jam, with a room full of baristas, trainers, roasters and producers. We answered questions, demonstrated latte art techniques, did a latte art throwdown, and took lots of photos until our cheeks were sore from smiling! It was an absolute honor for us to take part in such a historic moment in Ecuador's coffee culture.

Now it's getting late, but we're all staying up cause it's South West Barista Champion Camila Ramos' birthday tomorrow!

Stayed tuned to hear more!

BlogLily Kubota