I was just finishing up a cup of good, strong coffee when you posted
your question! My husband and I buy freshly-roasted beans from a local
roaster and grind them each morning. What a nice way to start the day!
I have compiled a bit of information on why "high-altitude" coffee is
considered of better quality than "your average bean."
According to "What Makes Good Gourmet Coffee?" by Lisa Maldonado
Several factors affect the quality of coffee. Altitude is just one!
"The altitude and region where the coffee was grown. The higher-grown
the coffee, the better. This is due to the fact that Arabica coffee,
the only species which encompasses gourmet coffees, will only grow at
a higher altitude. Coffee is classified by it's relative density - the
denser the finer. The higher-grown it is, the denser it is. Therefore,
the higher-grown, the finer! The relative density is denoted by a
system of names which groups coffee as follows, and whose categories
are delimited by the altitude at which the coffee grows: Fantasy ,
Strictly Hard Bean, HardBean, Semi-HardBean, etc."
(Other factors to consider include the type of coffee planted, the
blend, the growth process, the roast and the freshness.)
And...from "Inside a Coffee Field:
"The best coffee grows at an altitude between 3,900 and 5,200 feet
high. Altitude is very important: the weather, the amount of light,
the temperature, there is less oxygen, all that makes the beans ripen
very slowly, and that allows the flavor to concentrate and also they
are harder. Ever heard of "high mountain grown coffee"? Experts call
this coffee SHB, Strictly Hard Bean, and you can look for that in
packages of first quality coffee. The harder the bean the better,
because it can resist the high temperatures in the roasting ovens.
Lower grown coffee is porous and fragile, so it can break, and when
the big pieces are roasted the small ones get burnt, and that gives
coffee a bitter taste."
For a nice overview of the coffee-producing countries, visit the
National Geographic site on Major Coffe producers:
You might want to consider drinking high-altitude Arabica coffee for
another reason. The thrust to grow coffee more cheaply at lower
altitudes is increasing tropical clearcutting:
"Coffee is traditionally grown under shade trees at high altitude,
producing a varietal known as arabica. Technological advancements in
recent years have led developing nations to grow lower-quality robusta
coffee more cheaply and more efficiently at lower altitudes. While
this would seem desirable as a business approach, it requires
clear-cutting of tropical forests and results in magnified soil
erosion and greater run-off of fertilizers and pesticides. It also
creates a glut of supply that has driven the commodity to its current
price of about 59 cents per pound."
Read "Coffee Traders Waking Up to Sustainable Practices," by Laurie
Budgar Dwek. The Natural Foods Merchandiser.
I hope this information is helpful. Now....maybe I should go make
myself another cup!
Google Search Stragegy
is "high-altitude" coffee better?
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