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All about altitude

The general rule of thumb here is: that the higher the altitude, the “better” the coffee. Think of it like fine wine; the higher up you’re getting your coffee, the more mature your bean is. This is because higher altitudes equal cooler temperatures, and cooler temperatures delay the growth cycle of the good ol’ coffee bean. A more mature bean means a full, richer and pronounced flavour.

Altitude and elevation refer to the distance above sea level and is usually provided in metres above sea level (masl), however it is also measured in feet (ft). Sea level is listed as 0 masl.

Arabica Beans

Arabica beans are more fragile than their hardy Robusta cousins and need high altitudes in order to flourish.

  • Higher altitudes - 600 - 2000 masl (1,900 - 6,500 ft)
  • Cooler climates - 15°C to 24°C
  • Tropical conditions - moisture, humidity and shade
  • Nurtrient-dense soil - dark and fertile or volcanic

Robusta beans

Robusta is the more robust variety of bean due to it's higher caffeine percentage and preference for warmer climates.

  • Lower altitude - 0 - 800 masl (0 - 2,600 ft)
  • Warmer climate - 20°C to 30°C
  • Subtropical conditions - minimal rainfall, less shade

These conditions usually occur in countries close to the equator that have high altitudes. This is why we source our beans from Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Indonesia and India. This expansive region close to the equator is often referred to as the 'Coffee belt' or 'Bean belt'.

Altitudes and flavour

Whilst the bean varietal and intensity of the roast impact the flavour of the coffee, the altitude also influences its flavour profile. Lower altitudes in tropical regions produce beans with more earthy and grounded flavour profiles. This is due to the reduced rainfall and harsher conditions causing the beans to ripen more quickly. As the altitude rises into the medium and high altitudes the flavour becomes more sweet, smooth and chocolatey. At these altitudes the soil is usually more fertile and the temperatures are coolers, slowing the growth of the beans which gives them more time for flavours to develop. Finally at very high altitudes the beans produce fruity flavours and are grown in fertile, volcanic soil, which produces harder beans with a larger varietal nuance and distinctive flavour profiles.

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