Coffee experts@The Coffee Lab
The short answer is yes. Still, it isn’t as straightforward as I thought before. That’s why I think this is a very interesting question to make. It’s common to find altitude in specialty coffee labels. But other factors like processing methods, varietal, and roasting type play a huge role in coffee quality. So, we can’t focus on altitude only. Traditionally, coffee plants growing at higher altitudes and lower temperatures develop denser coffee beans. Under appropriate conditions, like shade, terroir, and rain, high-altitude coffee beans are the best of the best. We can recognize high-altitude green coffee beans because they’re smaller, denser, and display a narrow fissure in the middle, with a slight zigzag. Low altitude coffee beans tend to be larger, with a wider fissure. But roasters don’t pay a premium for shape, but for the aromatic profile. The denser, harder coffee beans have the potential for developing richer and more complex flavors. For this reason, premium coffees tend to come from very high altitudes, usually above 1,600 masl. However, after recent advancements in coffee processing methods, it’s more common to find interesting aromatic profiles in coffees grown at 1,000-1,200 masl. Actually, if coffee buyers and roasters follow strict quality standards, they can obtain impressive results. In conclusion, altitude matters for coffee quality. Altitude increases coffee beans’ potential, and following very high-quality standards during the plantation, growing, picking, and roasting, you can get the best coffee possible.
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