Compared to its neighbors, Colombia and Peru, Ecuador's coffee production is small-scale, but many believe it wins out over both with its fine aroma. The Loja/Vilcabamba area is the powerhouse of the plantations producing these highly revered beans.
It's the location that does it. The milder climates that circulate as the hills drop away into the humid lowlands create ideal coffee-growing conditions similar to those in Sumatra and Ethiopia. Coffee grown here produces a soft, smooth brew with just a note of acidity – vastly differing altitudes (800m to 2000m) ensure plenty of variety.
The best cantons for coffee growing hereabouts are Gonzanamá and Quilanga. Look out also for Zamora-Chinchipe province's Río Mayo label: a chocolatey, creamy flavor permeates through, with maybe an inkling of citrus.