Royal’s relationship with Galo Flores and his wife Maria Alexandra Rivera, of Finca Cruz Loma, is still very young relative to the greater pantheon of Royal’s supplier community. However Galo and Maria Alexandra, in addition to personally producing some of the top coffees we buy all year from South America, also expose us to smaller producers in their region with excellent coffee to sell. This coffee is a blend of various small family farms from the Pichincha and Imbabura provinces, 150 hectares in total, sourced and curated by Galo and Maria Alexandra. “Chirimoya” is the title for the small-farm blend, in honor of the native and uniquely delicious fruit widely grown and consumed across the Andes.
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. Cherry is depulped immediately after picking and fermented in sealed tanks (known as “anaerobic” fermentation) for 1-2 days. After fermentation, the parchment is thoroughly washed and moved to raised beds under shade canopy for a slow and even drying stage.
Galo and Maria Alexandra, the managers and curators of this small-farm blend, manage their own Finca Cruz Loma, 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.” Galo’s experience in the value chain has positioned his family well to help create opportunities for other farms by representing their coffees to exporters and directly to Royal Coffee.