Most of us are familiar with the fact that coffee is grown in different locations all around the world such as Colombia, Ethiopia, and Brazil and that this can change the flavour of your coffee.
But did you know that the altitude that your coffee bean was grown at will also influence its taste and overall quality?
Many people don’t.
Keep reading to find out exactly why altitude matters so much, whether high altitude coffee is better and how you can tell the difference.
Why Does Elevation Matter?
The size, shape, density, and flavour of your coffee bean depends, in part, on the elevation at which the coffee bean was grown.
Coffee grown at a higher altitude (more than 1200m/ 4000ft) usually produces a higher quality bean that boasts a more complex, concentrated, and intense flavour. Higher altitudes provide plenty of sunshine, the temperatures are generally lower and there is usually excellent drainage. The soils in these places also tend to be volcanic which provides a highly fertile soil to nourish the coffee plant. These combined factors slow the plant’s rate of growth, allowing the bean to mature slowly and the flavours to develop their full rich flavour.
Of course, altitude isn’t the only factor that influences the taste of your coffee, but it is one of the most important.
Is Coffee Grown at a Higher Altitude Better?
Although coffee grown at a higher altitude does tend to be richer and more flavourful than other coffees, whether you personally enjoy it depends entirely on your tastes. Light and medium roast coffee is more influenced by the altitude. Dark roast coffee is far more influenced by the temperature and technique used in the roasting process.
Like anything else in life, you may find you prefer rich intense flavours and others prefer those that are softer on the palette.
High Altitude Coffee
Beans grown at a higher elevation tend to produce a cup of coffee that is more acidic, aromatic, and flavourful. It’s perfect for coffee fans who love deep, rich flavours.
- Very high-altitude coffee (1,500m/5,000ft+)
This coffee is grown in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, Kenya, Guatemala, and Papua New Guinea. It tends to have a rich, spicy, floral, fruity, berry or wine flavour.
- High altitude coffee (1,200m/4000ft)
Growing in places like Costa Rica, Java, Sumatra, Nicaragua and Mexico Altura, this coffee tends to have a medium flavour and feature notes of citrus, vanilla, chocolate, or nut.
- Medium altitude coffee (900m/3000ft)
Coffee grown in Brazil is sweet and smooth and better for those who prefer less intense flavours.
Lower Altitude Coffee
On the other hand, lower elevation coffee tends to have a lower acidity, earthier flavour and less character which is ideal for those who prefer a milder or smoother cup of coffee. Coffee grown at around 760m/2500ft such as Hawaiian Kona has a more subtle, simple, and mild flavour so would be ideal for this person.
Although coffee can be grown at much lower altitudes, the flavour tends to be so much simpler that most people don’t enjoy the taste.
Why not try different elevations and see which you prefer?
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Elevations?
The easiest way to find out what elevation your coffee was grown is to ask your friendly local coffee roaster. We can tell you everything you need to know so you can find your perfect, eco-friendly cup of coffee.
You can also tell by looking at the unroasted bean if you can get your hands on one.
High elevation coffee beans are dense and have a closed fissure line that is uneven in shape and perhaps even zigzagged. Lower elevation will be less dense with a semi-open fissure like. The colour can vary enormously from light green to almost blue.
Higher elevations are perfect for growing aromatic, delicious coffee beans that pack in the flavour and provide a deep, rich taste. Although these beans are considered to be of a higher quality overall than low altitude, what you enjoy is a matter of personal taste.
We understand all the magic that goes into creating an outstanding cup of coffee. So why not try one of our coffee gift boxes and discover what altitude coffee you prefer?