Galo Fernando Morales Flores, along with his wife Maria Alexandra Rivera and his extended family, grow coffee on their 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. They describe their farm, Finca Cruz Loma, as a marvelous paradise whose temperate, tropical climate allows for a huge variety of flora to thrive—the family grows guanábana (soursop), corn, beans, and a plethora of citrus—all in addition to coffee.
Coffee, though always a source of income, has recently brought a lot of recognition for Galo, Maria Alexandra, and the whole family, as winners of Pichincha’s regional quality competition and as featured producers in Ecuador’s national barista competition, both in 2019. In 2020, Cruz Loma took third place in the national “Taza Dorada” quality competition. Across residents and tourists alike Ecuador has a strong domestic market for roasted coffee, so honors such as these have no small impact on a farm’s brand.
Finca Cruz Loma has been in Galo’s family going back 80 years. His grandparents were the first owners, who passed the property to their children, and now he and his four brothers are in charge. 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.”
Together the family oversees four unique processes for their coffee: fully washed; “anaerobic” washed, honey, and natural. This specific lot is a honey process with a slight twist to it. After picking, cherry is floated for density and then depulped; however, unlike a traditional honey process wherein cherry proceeds directly from depulping to drying, the Morales family prefers to add a short period of anaerobic fermentation. This brief step, an 8-hour ferment with the coffee just barely covered in water, is meant to break down some (but not all) of the remaining mucilage and develop the coffee’s acidity profile. Once the fermentation is complete the coffee is moved to dry on covered raised beds, typically for 25-30 days. The result is most definitely a uniquely delicious honey process coffee: distinct confectionary sweetness, raspberry, pomegranate and red grape flavors, and punchy fruit acids are all evident in the cup.
Removing partial amounts of mucilage by design is not uncommon in honey processing. In fact, doing so gives the Morales family something very much in common with many of Costa Rica’s best producers. Honey coffees are often mechanically de-mucilaged to different degrees in Costa Rica, according to each farm’s preference; controlling mucilage levels this way in honey processing allows producers to develop highly-precise sweetness profiles and, if they choose, a variety of distinct honey processes from a single crop.
The principal harvest months in northern Pichincha are June to September, but the family continues 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.