From High to Low: Understanding the Impact of Altitude on Coffee Flavours
In the world of specialty coffee, there is an often overlooked variable that quietly guides the flavour journey of coffee beans: altitude. The elevation at which coffee is grown plays a significant role in shaping the beans' flavour profile. In this Gateway article, we will uncover the importance of altitude and its profound impact on the acidity, sweetness, and overall taste we find in our coffee cups.
Altitude is not just a geographical statistic, but a key determinant of the terroir that is often associated with environmental conditions that shape coffee beans. High altitude and low altitude coffee cultivation each brings a unique set of characteristics to the brew.
At higher elevations, where the air is cooler and the growth process is slower, coffee beans tend to develop a brighter acidity. This heightened acidity is often described as vibrant and complex, adding a lively, wine-like quality to the cup. In contrast, coffee grown at lower altitudes tends to exhibit lower acidity. The warmer temperatures and faster maturation process result in a milder acidity. While this can be appealing to those who prefer a smoother cup, it may lack the dynamic flavour range found in high-altitude varieties.
The slower maturation process at high altitudes allows the coffee cherries to develop more concentrated sugars. As a result, high altitude coffee has a more pronounced sweetness. This sweetness often takes on fruity or floral notes that contribute to a well-balanced and delightful flavour profile. Lower altitude coffee may still possess sweetness, but it is often less pronounced compared to high altitude coffee. The sugars in the beans may not have the same concentration, leading to a more straightforward sweetness that may manifest as caramel or nutty undertones.
The combination of bright acidity and pronounced sweetness results in a coffee with a well-defined and complex taste. High altitude coffee is sought after by connoisseurs for their intricate flavour profiles that can include notes of citrus, berries, and even hints of spices. Coffees grown at lower altitudes often showcase a well-rounded, balanced taste. While they may lack the vibrant acidity of high-altitude beans, they can still offer a pleasant cup with flavours that appeal to a broader audience.
At Terminal 3 Coffee Roasters, we believe that every sip of coffee should be a journey – an exploration of flavours that tells a story. We are committed to providing you with comprehensive insights into each of our coffee bean offerings, from the region and species to the process and altitude. Understanding the role of altitude in coffee beans and the distinctive character imparted by the landscapes where each coffee bean is grown adds a new layer of appreciation to the world of specialty coffee. Whether it is the vibrant acidity from high altitude peaks or the balanced mellowness of the low altitude valleys, each cup is a testament to the meticulous care that goes into crafting the perfect cup. So, the next time you enjoy your daily brew, know that you are not only tasting coffee but also the altitude and the climate that nurtured those beans.