How altitude effects coffee beans
Coffee beans grow worldwide. One of the common indicators of the quality of the coffee bean almost anywhere though is the altitude at which it is grown. Different altitude’s and locations can produce different and distinct flavors in coffee.
The elevation that a coffee plant is grown at affects the size, shape, and flavor of the bean itself. Higher elevations generally produce more dense coffee beans because the plants grow more slowly in the harsher environment; This is in turn produces a more flavorful bean. When you are at the coffee shop knowing a little about the altitude and where the bean was grown can be a clear indicator of what flavor you should expect. One of the clear signs of higher elevation coffee beans is in the green coffee beans (Coffee that has yet to be roasted) you can see the fissure line. This is the line that runs down the center of the coffee bean in higher elevations it is closed, or zig zagged, this is opposed to lower elevations in which it is open.
1,200 meters is generally considered high elevation and beans produced above this level are considered good quality. As a rule, around 762 meters produces lower quality bland coffee beans, around 914 meters produces a smoother flavor, at 1,200 meters you start getting more exotic nutty or citrus flavors, and at the highest elevations of above 1,500 meters you start to see spicy or even fruity coffee beans.
There are however some exceptions to this rule. Some beans even when grown at lower elevations have been able to achieve the same great flavor as their higher elevation counterparts. Growing at lower elevations can still produce beans that develop slowly if they face some other environmental challenge. Two noteworthy examples of this are the Hawaiian grown Kona coffee which is grown below 609 meters and shade grown coffee. The reason that Hawaiian Kona coffee produces beans of such high quality despite the low altitude is because it is so far to the north of the equator that it still slows the maturation process. Shade grown coffee restricts the coffee beans by limiting the amount on sunlight the coffee plant is allowed.
As can be seen there are more factors in place other than just altitude to take into consideration when it comes to the quality of a coffee bean. Factors such as soil quality, temperature, rainfall, and access to sunlight also affect the quality of a coffee bean. A coffee bean from Ethiopia might be lemony with a floral aroma while a high-quality Mexican coffee bean might be fruity with an acidic snap of flavor. When choosing your cup of coffee ask your barista where the coffee comes from and what to expect from the flavor.