Interest: Altitude & Coffee - What Does It Really Mean?

Posted by Jack Birkett on

Altitude and coffee - what does it really mean? Well high altitude coffees are often associated with sweetness and complexity. For example, our Yirgacheffe Kochere is grown at 2200masl, and as a result carries some really unique sweet notes of cherry and fudge. Where does this come from? What is the correlation?

It is known that at higher growing altitudes, there are less pests and diseases, and therefore high altitude coffees can be known to have a higher uniformity. SHG (strictly high grown) is a grade of coffee synonymous with SHB (strictly hard bean). At higher altitudes, the air temperature is lower, and so coffee plants take longer to develop their crop, and during this time the cherries grow firmer. As the cherries mature, there is more time for the sweetness of the flesh to be absorbed into the bean, hence the sweet and fruity notes associated with SHG coffees.

This by no means suggests that only SHG coffees are sweet and fruity. The lower temperatures found at high altitudes on the equator, can in-fact match temperates found at lower altitudes on farms further away from the equator. For example, a coffee grown at Nariño in North Columbia 100 miles from the Equator may have similar characteristics at 2300masl to a coffee grown in Cerrado Mineiro, grown over 1500 miles from the equator in Brazil, but at half the altitude. 

So there we have it - a brief overview of the correlation between altitude and bean complexity. With a wide range of coffees rom all over the world readily available on the shelves these days, this is something we definitely recommend exploring more. 


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