Coffee Tours of Loja visits Bracamoros 2018 coffee fair

Jonathan (L.) and Kevin (R.) Coffee Tours of Loja
bilingual guides next to the Bracamoros 2018
southern Ecuadorian coffee growers' feria sign
At this year's Bracamoros coffee growers' fair, Coffee Tours of Loja enjoyed the hospitality of Loja's premier organic coffee purveyor (and stop on our most popular specialty tour)-- Equanativa Shop and Cafe. Traveling with Equanativa's owner, Arturo Jimenez, we saw first-hand the origin of many varieties of coffee from southern Ecuador served and sold in Loja's finer coffee shops.

The tenth edition of the southern Ecuador growers' coffee fair was held in the village of Palanda, in the canton of the same name due south of Vilcabamba on route 662 to Peru, nestled between Yacuri National Park to the west and Podocarpus National Park in the east.

View overlooking the Amazonian town of Palanda,
Ecuador site of the Bracamoros coffee growers feria 2018
A lively exposition was assembled on the last Saturday of September under canopies erected over the streets of Palanda's central square to shade fair visitors from the near 90 degree heat that morning. Fair goers were treated to a wide array of southern products beyond local coffee, such as produce, herbal remedies, handcrafts, and chocolate cultivated in the area.

The day before arriving for the fair, our host Arturo took us to the Santa Ana-La Florida archeological site near Palanda where the earliest evidence of chocolate use has been found, and dated more three thousand years before the Common Era. See our coverage of the discovery of Ecuador's chocolate pre-eminence in our earlier coffee tours blog, "Chocolate History: southern Ecuador is the birthplace."

Tasting table for Equanativa Shop and Cafe of Loja, Ecuador
Sponsors of Bracamoros coffee expo 2018 in Palanda, Ecuador
Hosts of Coffee Tours of Loja at this year's event
This was Equanativa's first year as a sponsor of the coffee feria, having supported previous expos by organizing, for example, the official coffee tasting and judging As a first time fair sponsor, their display was nonetheless given pride of place -- front and center-right of the main dais to display their select coffees, and provide samples of their brewing methods to an eager throng.

People were two-deep watching and learning how Equanativa's barista, Pablo Alberto Andrade Cueva and his assistant, brew the best organic coffees using the latest drip methods. Despite being from Loja, the "big city" of the province Pablo, and Equantiva's other principal Arturo, are fondly regarded by the growers and fair organizers. This regard is undoubtedly a result of Eqaunativa's faithful advocacy on behalf of southern coffee producers in the wider Ecuadorian market, and their ongoing endorsement of Bracamoros events.

Close-up of Pedro (R.),
Equanativa's barista with assistant (L.)
demonstrating drip-brewing techniques
for coffee feria attendees
Two of the feria's larger stakeholders were seen and heard from throughout the day. One is the Regional Federation of Associations of Small Ecological Coffee Growers of Southern Ecuador, or FAPECAFES. FAPECAFES is made up of a group of seven growers' associations from the southern provinces of Loja, Zamora Chinchipe, and El Oro. The agricultural co-op was chartered in 2002, with the idea of stockpiling enough coffee to competitively export. This would improve small growers' bargaining power with the larger international importers and roasters, and was a way to uplift the lives of coffee producers and their families in the southern region of Ecuador. The federation currently has an impressive 1449 members.

FAPECAFES started with organic coffee,  but recently they have expanded to include other organic produce, further stabilizing their members' income through the growing seasons. According to Ecuador's Coordinator of Fair Trade or the CECJ in Ecuador, FAPECAFES offers sweet, salty or spicy banana chips, coffee flower honey, green coffee, Victoria brand coffee both ground and roasted, and bulk ground roast coffee. FAPECAFES products are sold both in Ecuador and around the world in fair trade markets which include the EU and north America.

Regional Federation of Associations of Small Ecological
CoffeeGrowers of Southern Ecuador (FAPECAFES) 
in their Bracamoros 2018 hospitality tent with 
The Association Agro Artesanal de Productores 
Ecológicos de Palanda y Chinchipe (APECAP)
 organizers of the Bracamoros feria wearing
matching Panama hats
The other major collaborator at the feria is The Association Agro Artesanal de Productores Ecológicos de Palanda y Chinchipe or "APECAP." APECAP organizes the Bracamoros coffee fair, which takes its name from the last prominent indigenous group to inhabit the region of southern Ecuador and nearby northern Peru. APECAP's mission is to grade, treat, and help market the production of its 200 plus member farmers in Palanda and Chinchipe Cantons. APECAP's efforts have met with success. Ecuadorian newspaper LaHora reports that buyers from Germany, Canada, Colombia and the United States come to the festival every year. Annual hosting of the event alternates between cities in APECAP's bailiwick. The next Bracamoros feria will be held in the city of Zumba, Zamora-Chinchipe, at the southernmost tip of Ecuador.

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