In the hills above San Lorenzo, on a ribbon of E15 that twists into the verdant Pacoche rainforest, beyond the Refugio de Vida Silvestre, at a hairpin turn in the road, you will find the best damn coffee in Manabí Province. Possibly in all Ecuador.
Keep your eyes open for it. We’ve driven past so often that I never noticed the new presence. But Chantal was alert that afternoon. She saw the rollup banners in her passenger side mirror, as we blew by. “Coffee! They’re selling coffee!”
“We need coffee,” I said and pulled over.
It’s a tiny caravan, not much to see, really, with a cane shack behind and set well into the sagging broadleaves.
Sometimes the caravan is there, sometimes it isn’t. But it’s where Café de Pacoche roasts and grinds its beans. Five bucks for one of the pretty 225g foil gusseted pouches. Five bucks a pound if you don’t mind your morning Joe in a resealable plastic bag. It takes more than a few minutes to put together a bulk order.
While you’re waiting, ask for a tour of the plantation. Owner Diego Loaiza will stop work on his cane shack expansion (“We’re building a cafeteria”) to guide you into the rainforest where the first of his 25,000 plantings stands, with its deeply green leaves and clusters of fat red berries.
Deigo spent time in the USA and speaks perfect English. He will tell you that it took eight years for his coffee plants to mature, and that he gets two harvests per plant per year. He grows organically. His ground coffee keeps for six months. It’s available in the pretty pouches at Tia and some gasolineras. Or you can buy it freshly roasted on the side of the road, whenever he and his parents have the caravan open and their banners up. Once Diego has his cafeteria ready, their service hours will be more predictable.
Chantal and I enjoy good coffee. We buy by the pound. If we can get it a few steps from the rainforest plantation, and deal directly with the proprietor, so much the better.
Café de Pacoche is a medium roast with a nutty, almost chocolatey aroma and a pleasantly tart flavour. We brew six cups every morning. One pound lasts just over a week.
In a country whose people, ironically, prefer instant, Café de Pacoche is well worth the drive.