The temperature gets cooler, the air gets thinner and the coffee gets more delicious. So, does elevation really matter?
Elevation, an important factor in coffee cultivation, has a profound impact on the coffee's flavours. The altitude at which the beans grow shapes their character, flavour and in turn, the final brew.
In this article, let us dig a bit deeper or should we say, climb a bit higher to know how exactly elevation affects coffee’s characteristics.
Effects of Elevations on Coffee
Elevation is the vertical distance between the sea level and the terrains where coffee grows. It is measured in meters above sea level (MASL).
Although there is a difference between elevation and altitude, we can use it interchangeably when it comes to coffee terminology.
The elevation of the coffee estate impacts two things - physical shape and the chemical components of the coffee.
At cooler temperatures, the beans are more mature and fully developed. The density of the beans will also be more at higher altitudes.
The cooler climate also slows down the coffee's growth rate. This provides the coffee cherry more time to mature and develop complex flavours. Furthermore, it gives the coffee beans a pleasant amount of acidity.
Here's how coffee grown at higher elevations contributes to complex flavours:
- Fewer plants survive at higher elevations, increasing the likelihood of the fittest ones surviving.
- The drainage is faster at higher elevations. This reduces the amount of water the cherries can soak up.
Ideal Altitudes for Coffee
Coffee cultivation is a delicate and precise process. As we now know, it is influenced by the altitude at which it takes place. Altitudes ranging from 900 meters to 1500 meters, and even higher, create an optimal environment for the growth of coffee plants.
Coffee plants thrive in this region owing to moderate rainfall, abundant sunshine year-round, and cooler temperatures. The unique climatic conditions in these elevated zones contribute to the development of high-quality coffee beans. Notably, some of the world's most prized specialty coffees are cultivated at altitudes exceeding 1800 meters.
The combination of cooler temperatures, ample sunlight, and the right amount of rainfall creates an ideal setting for the slow maturation of coffee cherries, fostering the development of complex flavours and aromatic profiles.
At these heights, coffee plants grow slowly thereby producing flavorful compounds. This meticulous cultivation process results in beans with distinctive characteristics.
Therefore, high-altitude coffees are sought after by connoisseurs and home brewers who appreciate the nuanced and refined qualities of their brew.
Delicious Coffees From Higher Elevations
Below are 5 great coffees grown above 1000m that you can try. The expert-curated list consists of coffee that is carefully cultivated. Each bag of beans boasts a unique terroir and flavour profile that reflects the rich nuances of their high-altitude origins.
Blue Tokai Attikan Estate
Attikan Estate's arabica coffee comes from the Biligiriranga Hills at 1200 to 1650 meters in Karnataka and is one of the most popular coffees. Sweet with fruity overtones and balanced acidity, this is the darkest of Blue Tokai's standard medium roasts and is recommended for espresso lovers.
Bili Hu Balur Estate
Run by third-generation coffee planters, Balur Estate is located at an altitude of over 1000 meters. The coffee is red honey sun-dried and then, roasted by Bili Hu. It has flavour notes of red wine, grapes, citrus berries and chocolate.
Naivo Monsoon Malabar AA
Procured from Aspinwall, one of the best producers of Monsoon Malabar in India, the coffee is grown at an altitude of 1000 to 1500 meters. When brewed, the coffee tastes earthy and mellow with notes of dark chocolate.
Balanoor Plantations Kents (Washed)
Grown at an altitude of above 1000m, the coffee truly is a treat. The Kents variety is a popular Indian coffee and the work that the team at Balanoor puts in makes it all the more delightful. The medium roast coffee has notes of rich milk chocolate, a subtle citrus acidity, and plum.
The elevation, a seemingly subtle factor, affects the taste of the final brew. It heavily influences the climate, soil, and the cultivation processes. This leaves an indelible mark on each bean.
So, the next time you are looking for something new in your brew, you can choose a bag of coffee based on the elevation details.