What’s in a Cup? Understanding Ecuadorian Specialty Coffee / by Connor Pearce - Photography Toni Veziris


Just as specialty coffee has allowed the growth of smaller, boutique cafes and small scale roasteries to flourish, further up the coffee chain, select importers of coffee have been established to ensure that high quality coffee reaches its drinker in the most appropriate format. One of those companies is Caravela Coffee, and that’s who have brought our December single origin to us.

Named after the vessels that carried Portuguese traders around the world, Caravela Coffee sources coffee only from Latin America, and only the best coffee grown in that part of the world. As Mark Howard, customer relations and sales specialist at Caravela puts it, this keeps the company small, despite the global scale of its operations 

“Because we only buy specialty coffee, we don't buy anything below 83 points, our market infiltration scope is relatively small.”

What those 83 points refers to is what is known as coffee grading. Based on the size, lack of defects and taste composition, coffees are given a score. Normally a score above 80 is sufficient to be referred to as specialty coffee, however Caravela sets the bar slightly higher, to ensure that the coffee they are shipping is outstanding. With such a high standard, however, this means that Caravela is only targeting a small proportion of the market, but one that is expanding. 

“So our drop in the ocean of coffee in Australia is relatively small,” noted Howard, “[But] there's potential for it to really grow. What we're seeing is the people who are growing are the ones who are buying quality, who aren't compromising with quality.”

On its own, however, quality can only go so far, and the complexities and levels of flavour need to be communicated to the consumer. This is something that us at Black Drum, in partnership with Caravela, are committed to doing and that is why we continue to share the stories and trajectories of the beans that end up in your cup. As Howard highlights, “the market is really changing, and there's a lot of demand for high quality coffee, but there's also still a big gap in understanding it.”

From our perspective, that gap can be overcome by engaging with coffee lovers, café owners and baristas, who are the ones that are the link between the roasted bean and its presence in a cup of coffee. For Caravela, this is also about going back to origin and experimenting with processing methods to get the best out of each crop. Recently, according to Howard, what Caravela have found is the importance of the drying process. 

“We did an experiment many years ago about different types of drying techniques and we found that drying on raised beds had significant differences than drying on patio in direct sunlight.”

Using raised beds contributed to an even drying process which improved the final outcomes. Being the beneficiary of this practice-based research has been part of our engagement with Caravela, and why it is always important to be present at origin. 

All of these factors come together in our December single origin. Sourced from the highlands of Ecuador and brought to us via Caravela, the final product is a result of all these relationships and thought that are present at each step of the way.