Meet the Coffee Producer: Pepe Jijon of Finca Soledad, Ecuador

Friday, 15 March, 2024

Words by Katie Burnett

Pepe Jijón seemingly burst onto the specialty coffee scene in 2021 after World of Coffee Milan. His farm in Ecuador, Finca Soledad, quickly became one of the names being shared amongst green coffee buyers and roasteries, both because of the amazing coffees and Pepe's natural charm and love for people.

Pepe was an avid mountain climber and mountain guide for years. After the birth of his first child, Pepe focused on a career as a mountain guide to provide a life filled with nature and opportunity for his little girl. He could speak 5 languages and had always been at home in nature, so he found great success as a mountain guide. Pepe became the first Latin American to solo climb the 7 Summits. A life of extensive travel, discovery and contemplation only deepened his passion for the environment and purpose to be an advocate for Mother Nature.

After a motorcycle accident left him with paralysis in his right wrist and an uncertain future, Pepe bought a piece of land in the Intag valley. “I just wanted to plant some trees and escape from the world” hence Soledad, Spanish for solitude. The coffee trees that were planted were merely a result of the recommendation of nearby farmers who advised that coffee grew well in the area. Pepe wasn’t particularly interested in coffee, he didn’t even drink coffee at the time of buying Finca Soledad.

It was a difficult start, with no background in agriculture and no existing infrastructure on the farm it was an uphill battle for the first 12 years. “I thought that climbing Mount Everest was going to be the hardest thing I did in my life, but I was wrong, starting a coffee farm was”.

 “It was only after World of Coffee Milan in 2021 that things began to change. I met with so many people from all over the world who tasted and liked my coffee. I got to engage with the specialty coffee culture for the first time.”

Left: Pepe meeting some of the best roasters in the world in Milan in 2021. Follow his adventures on Instagram

Since then, Pepe has had his coffee featured at World Coffee Competitions, being chosen by barista and brewers competitors to take to the World Championships and he has won many awards including the Sprudgie at the end of 2023 for most Notable Coffee Producer, a highly sought after accolade.

“Having my family support me, being able to support them and watching them become part of the coffee industry has been the most meaningful reward. Not the awards.” Pepe’s son has joined him in his mission; becoming an integral part of the team at Finca Soledad, exploring opportunities to work for other coffee businesses and looking to compete on the world stage. “This is what keeps me happy. There’s already so much ego and power involved in these awards, that’s not me. I’m not here for awards and recognition. More than ever, I want to start a revolution of conscious consumption and environmental awareness. In coffee, I want people to know the consequences of the cheap coffee that they have on their tables.”

Not too long ago, if you asked Pepe what he was most excited about in coffee, he would have said processing. Pepe’s processing methods are nature-led and extremely innovative. His fermentations mimic what naturally occurs in the environment and his flavour goals are guided by the naturally occurring flavours of the varietals he works with. He has found his passion in the intricacies and artistry of producing beautiful and complex coffees that reflect his love for nature. However, his answer is different today. “I want to focus on creating awareness on how hard it is to grow coffee. To share the story and what the consequences of cheap coffee are for producers. It’s about humanitarian and environmental awareness on a global scale. I want to spread awareness about what responsible coffee means.” 

“A couple of weeks ago, a coffee competitor visited my farm and while I was taking him back to town, he asked me where I see myself in 10 years. I said to him, ‘I want to be on the beach with a coconut spending the day looking for good waves.’ I don’t have massive expectations anymore, I’ve achieved a lot and I just want to travel, contemplate, relax, enjoy and surf.” 

Pepe’s newest love is Fincas del Putushio.  “I’ve always wanted to have a terroir where I could grow coffee and just do normal washed processing to create beautiful and complex coffees. I’ve done a little bit of this at Soledad but I want a space that I can dedicate to it.” Fincas del Putushio has rougher terrain, full of cacti and is at 2200 masl. “I was trying to help a producer there and he ended up wanting to sell his farm”. It wasn’t part of the plan for Pepe to buy another plot of land, “but I fell in love with it!"

Pepe has set himself a hefty task, but with his experience in the natural world and his background of extensive travel and influence, it’s hard to imagine a person better suited to carry this message. “I’m not inspired by awards, I want to create a better society using coffee as a tool.”

An inspiration for us all.

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