Compared to its neighbors, Colombia and Peru, Ecuador's coffee production is small-scale, but where many believe it wins out over both is in 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 (800–2000m) 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.