Visiting Soldedad with Pepe is one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve personally ever had on a coffee farm. Passion for coffee and for the land is underpinned with each decision he makes. As you approach the farm from the Intag Valley, it’s not clear at first that coffee is even planted as he points to the farm from his truck. The four hectares of coffee he has planted is completely shrouded with a forest of trees that Pepe and his family has planted himself, as they reforest the native trees and plants that were removed over years of harsh farming and mining. Pepe practices a biodynamic approach to farming, utilizing feedback from his systems to determine what each part of the farm needs as he continues to rehabilitate the land. He also has a burgeoning roasting business within Ecuador, where he supplies friends and businesses with roasted coffees from Ecuador and other producing countries like Panama. It’s clear that roasting coffee is a connection point for him as much as production is. Within Soledad, he is cultivating Gesha, Typica Mejorado, and Sidra. The initial endeavor of Soledad was much bigger at the forefront- with nearly 20 hectares planted with castillo. The volatility of pricing coffees not only in specialty coffee but within the commodity market proved a quick challenge to Pepe, as he made the difficult decision to remove this planting and scale down. This is one of the many intriguing things about the way Pepe does business- he is very quick to admit his failure within an area, and quickly will pivot to try something new. This approach has led him to a slower, more methodical approach to all things on the farm. No doubt we will see him pivot next season, where he will simultaneously innovate and continue to care for his family and the land.
Outside of coffee production and roasting, Pepe was the first person from Latin America to solo-climb the seven highest summits on each continent, with a clear tenacity that carries through everything he does, including his friendships.
Typica Mejorado & The Tyoxidator
Like many of the varieties currently cultivated on specialty coffee farms across the world, little is known about the enigmatic Typica Mejorado. Despite sharing its moniker with the now-famous Typica, this variety bears little resemblance to its cousin. The main area of cultivation is Ecuador, where it is rumored to have originated from a Nestlé facility within the country. Despite its sterile sounding origins, current research now points to its origin as a cross between an Ethiopian landrace and a Bourbon variety. Pepe Jijon of La Soledad has long cultivated this variety, going as far as to highlight this variety alongside many competitors on the world stage, as well as proliferating it amongst roasters across the globe. With meticulous attention to detail in the cup, Pepe has developed his own process to cater to the needs of the variety, coining it Tyoxidation. (with friend Ben Morrow) This tongue-in-cheek name sounds more like a name of an Avenger than a processing method, but the process is fairly straightforward; the ripe cherries undergo an oxidative pre-fermentation before being pulped and fermented in a sealed barrel for up to 48 hours. This oxidation begins the fermentation stage within the cherry, imparting a more winey element to an otherwise clean and sweet washed process.