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Colombia: what about the altitudes ?

The altitudes of Colombia

If you are familiar with coffee, you have certainly heard of the famous Colombian coffee... but are we aware of the specific features of this giant among coffee producers?

 

One of the special features of Colombia is its vast difference in altitudes where coffee plantations can be found.  Not every country has the chance to be crossed by the Andes mountains!

Coffee productions can be found up until about 2000 meters above sea level.

But why are we discussing the altitude of plantations? Is it really a determining factor in the flavour profile? The answer is yes…in part.

 

Speaking of Flavour

It is often said that coffees grown in high altitudes are more acidic and complex when it comes to aromas. You will then obtain a larger variety of aromas in the same cup of coffee. However, coffees grown in lower altitudes are considered to have a simpler aromatic profile. You end up with a crisp taste, without the aftertaste, without acidity and even with an earthy profile. (Which can be considered an advantage for some people, for an espresso blend, for example…)

 

The choice of farmers

The altitude will play a role in the size and density of the coffee bean, as well as the maturation time before harvest.

Altitude has a direct link with the different flavour profiles, as it influences producers with their choices of which plants to use.  This refers to the famous Arabica VS Robusta debate… Farmers tend to plant Arabica coffee plants in high altitudes because these varieties prefer to grow in fresher climates, where differences in temperature are limited. With an average temperature of 18 degrees Celcius in the Andes altitude, heat is not a threat for these plants.  This variety will grow slower, which partly explains the high density and shape of the Arabica beans.

 

In lower altitudes, Robusta plants will be found.  These are plants that love heat, grow and produce quickly.  This explains the lower density of the beans. Farmers in lower altitudes prefer working with these plants because of their high commercial yield.

 

To sum up, altitude is one of a multitude of factors that affect the taste of a cup of coffee. We simply have to think of roasting, the type of infusion used, the freshness of the coffee and the barista himself-herself…

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