Top of the morning, fellow coffee geeks! Welcome to my table here in the corner of this cafe.

This is going to be a very special edition of the Table; no, not “very special” like melodramatic episodes of 1990’s sitcoms (remember when Zachary Taylor Thomas had a cancer scare on Home Improvement…?) – no, today is very special because we are among the first to have the good pleasure to sample a brand spankin’ new offering from San Francisco-based Ritual Coffee Roasters – La Libertad, Ecuador. Not only is this a new addition to the regular roster of Ritual roasts (try saying that three times fast), La Libertad marks the first time in their history that Ritual is offering a coffee from Ecuador.

Ready for a new Ritual era? Feel free to pull up a chair.

The coffee is grown by eighteen different small-holder producers in the tiny village of La Libertad, in the Quilanga canton of the Loja province in southern Ecuador, just north of its border with fellow coffee-producing nation, Peru. These eighteen producers fall under the umbrella of the PROCAFEQ (Association of Highland Coffee Producers from Espíndola and Quilanga) cooperative. The group consists of 311 producers that work with its larger, export organization called FAPECAFES. FAPECAFES is an organization that is dedicated to bettering the lives of farmers in Ecuador, and to bettering their farms and crops.

These two organizations, in addition to many others, have helped Ecuador come a very long way in a fairly short amount of time – whereas Ecuador was once a country known for terrible coffee crops, coffee is now a booming economy for the country. I recently read that, “Ecuador is now the Colombia of 20 years ago,” meaning that Ecuador still has a lot of catching up to do, but a lot of progress has already been made.

This, of course, could explain why La Libertad is only the first Ecuadorian coffee that Ritual has ever offered.

the basics:

Origin: La Libertad, Quilanga, Loja, Ecuador
Farm: PROCAFEQ cooperative
Elevation: 1600-2000 meters above sea level
Cultivar: Typica, Bourbon
Process: washed, sun-dried
Certifications: Organic, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Fair Trade

the coffee:

The aroma of this coffee is pleasant enough, to start. It has some nice, delicate floral aromatics – rose hips, namely. But I’m much more apt to be lured in by it’s wonderful brown sugar and maple/honey scents. Just like the Quilanga and the El Gavilan we tried before, this coffee has a thick, creamy aroma – vanilla and cherry. Very sweet.

One thing I’ve noticed about comparative cupping lately, is that even when coffees come from the same exact harvest, there’s usually at least one or two things that set it apart. The thing that sets this Ritual coffee apart immediately post brew is that it has a soft cashew nuttiness to it. But, really, that’s about it – as the cup cools, it starts to resemble the other two Ecuadors we’ve tried more and more. It has a soft, mellow body – it’s mild, but sweet. Deep and delicious cherry notes, coupled with some hints of cranberry, raspberry, and citrus make for some really wonderful fruitplay; let it cool a little more and that rich vanilla creaminess that is so typical in the Typica cultivar (see what I did there?) starts coming through.

Medium to full body; creamy mouthfeel; light citrus acidity; crisp, clean finish. Very satisfying cup of coffee.

the bottom line:

La Libertad, Ecuador – the very first Ecuadorian offering from Ritual Coffee Roasters – is the definition of a truly “washed-mild” cup of coffee. It’s soft, light-bodied, sweet, and there really aren’t any surprises in the flavor. The consumer can expect a balanced, well-rounded cup, with sweet, soft, lush flavors from beginning to end. A very pleasant, solid offering from Ritual.

I’ve only had two other coffees from Ecuador, and they were both from the Loja province – Ecuadorian Quilanga from Noble, and El Gavilan from Counter Culture Coffee. Ritual’s offering fits in really well with these two. Coffees from this region, I feel, would be a great introductory specialty coffee for the “everyday” consumer; moreover, though, I think this is a great introductory coffee for Ecuador. I expect that many great crops will be coming out of that country in the coming years.

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