You’ve ordered a bag of ShareWell Single Origin Coffee, noticed the mention of altitude on our single origin cards, and are trying to figure out why in the world you should care about how high up a mountain your beans were grown. Well...welcome to coffee school, allow us to learn ya some things.
Altitude plays a direct role in a beans flavor and quality. Coffee grown at higher altitudes tends to be more complex and have an increased quality than coffee grown at lower altitudes.
This is due to two factors; temperature and water exposure to the plants.
Why Do Higher Elevations Produce Amazing Coffee?
At higher altitudes, temperatures are inevitably cooler, which slows down the growth of a coffee plant. A slower growth rate allows the plant to devote its energies to bean reproduction and slowly produce more complex sugars. Higher elevations also have more volcanic soil and better drainage, leading to less water content in the overall coffee cherry, and further concentration of flavors by the sugars. This is why coffees from places such as Colombia, Kenya, and Ethiopia (about 1,500 meters/5,000 feet above sea level) have complex floral, fruity, acidic, and even spicy flavors.
Just 1,000 feet lower in places like Brazil, Mexico, and Sumatra (1,200m/4,000ft), wonderful chocolate and nutty notes appear, but acidity dwindles. Often mild to the palate, this coffee still tastes phenomenal, but due to slightly warmer temperatures and more rainfall, acidity takes a backseat in the flavor profile.
Albert Einstein says, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” so here’s the main takeaway.
HIGHER ALTITUDES = COOLER TEMPERATURES COOLER TEMPERATURES = SLOWER GROWTH SLOWER GROWTH CREATES A MORE DENSE BEAN THE DENSER THE BEAN, THE BETTER THE FLAVOR
Like all good things in life, growing good coffee cannot be rushed. HOWEVER; altitude isn’t everything. A plethora of climatic, farming, exporting, roasting, and brewing factors play important roles in flavor, and we’ll dive into those in further blog posts. In the meantime, be well.
Written by: Sam Raph
For more info:
The Effect of Altitude on Coffee Flavor – Scribblers Coffee Co.