As a coffee lover you are probably familiar with the term "Specialty coffee". Unlike commercial coffee, specialty coffee is considered the highest quality coffee in the world. But what makes specialty coffee so special? In this blog we take a closer look at the factors that influence the flavor profile of coffee, in particular the geography and climate in which the coffee is grown.
But before we go any further, it's important to understand what specialty coffee actually means. That's why I recommend reading our previous blog post "Specialty vs. Commercial Coffee: What's the Difference?" to read. In this blog we explained what specialty coffee is and why it is different from commercial coffee.
Now that we've got the basics down, let's turn to how geography and climate affect the flavor profile of coffee. So if you're interested in the complex and fascinating world of specialty coffee, keep reading to find out how these factors affect the taste of coffee!
If you're looking for the best tasting specialty coffee, the altitude at which the coffee is grown is an important factor to keep in mind. Altitude has a significant influence on the flavor profile of coffee beans. In this blog we will take a closer look at the relationship between the height and the taste of specialty coffee .
Specialty coffee is produced in higher elevations, where the temperature and humidity differ from lower elevations. Coffee plants that grow at altitudes above 1200 meters above sea level generally have a better flavor profile than plants that grow at lower altitudes. The high elevation means that the plants grow more slowly and the berries have longer time to ripen. This results in a more complex and refined taste, with notes of fruit, flowers and spices.
Altitude also affects the acidity and sugar content of the coffee. Due to the lower temperatures at higher altitudes, it takes longer for the coffee cherries to ripen. This gives the bean more time to develop natural sugars, resulting in a sweeter coffee. In addition, coffee plants that grow at higher altitudes generally have a higher acidity, which gives the coffee a bright and lively taste.
If you're looking for a unique and sophisticated coffee experience, we recommend looking at the height at which a particular specialty coffee bean has grown, usually listed on a coffee's product page. Try different coffees from different regions and altitudes to discover which flavor profiles you prefer.
The soil type
The type of soil in which coffee is grown is another important factor that influences the taste of specialty coffee. The minerals, nutrients and pH of the soil can all affect the flavor profile of the coffee. In this blog we take a closer look at the relationship between the soil type and the taste of specialty coffee.
Specialty coffee beans are often grown in volcanic soil, because this type of soil is rich in minerals and nutrients that the coffee plants need to grow. This results in a higher quality and flavor intensity of the coffee beans. The volcanic soil has a low pH value, so the coffee plants develop less sour flavors. This can result in coffee with a milder, smoother taste.
In addition to volcanic soil, there are also other soil types that influence the taste of specialty coffee. For example, clay soil can result in coffee with a fuller body and a chocolatey taste. Sandy soil, on the other hand, can result in coffee with a bright, light, and fruity taste.
Another important factor is the quality of the soil. High quality soil, rich in organic matter and well maintained can result in higher quality specialty coffee. This is because the plants are better nourished and protected against diseases and pests.
All in all, the soil type is an important factor that contributes to the taste of specialty coffee. If you're looking for a specific flavor profile, you can look at the soil types the coffee was grown on and experiment with different coffees to discover which flavor profiles you prefer.
Precipitation patterns and temperature
The altitude, soil type and climate conditions in which coffee is grown all affect the flavor profile of specialty coffee. In addition to altitude and soil type, precipitation patterns and temperature are important factors that determine the taste of coffee.
Precipitation patterns affect the growth of coffee plants and thus influence the taste of the coffee. For example, excessive rainfall can lead to rapid plant growth, causing the beans to have less concentrated flavors. A drier climate can actually lead to slower growth, causing the coffee beans to develop more concentrated flavours.
Temperature is also an important factor when growing specialty coffee. Coffee plants thrive in moderate temperatures, between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius. At higher temperatures, the coffee plant can grow too quickly and therefore develop less complex flavors. At lower temperatures, the plants grow more slowly, allowing the flavor of the coffee beans to develop more.
Another important aspect of temperature is the temperature differences between day and night. This ensures a slower ripening of the coffee beans and causes the beans to develop a higher acidity. This can result in a more complex, fruity flavor often associated with specialty coffees.
Coffee grown in places with a combination of adequate rainfall, moderate temperatures and temperature differences between day and night can result in better quality and greater complexity of flavours. This combination of factors can also result in a more pronounced and balanced flavor profile, which is often associated with specialty coffees.
The processing method used after the coffee cherries have been harvested
Coffee on drying beds. Source: The Coffee Quest
In addition to factors such as altitude, soil type and climate, the processing method used after the coffee cherries have been harvested also plays an important role in the taste of specialty coffee. There are several processing methods used in growing coffee, each with a unique impact on the final flavor of the coffee.
One of the most common processing methods is the 'washed' method. In this method, the coffee cherries are washed after harvesting and stripped of their outer layers before being dried. This method often results in a clean, crisp taste known for its sweetness and freshness. Washed processing is often used when growing specialty coffee because it emphasizes the unique flavors of the coffee beans.
Another common processing method is the dry method, also known as the "natural" method. In this method, the coffee cherries are dried after harvesting while they are still in their outer layers. This often results in a heavy, fruity flavor known for its complexity and body. This method is often used when growing coffee in arid climates, where the coffee cherries dry quickly and there is little chance of spoilage.
Of course there are many more processing methods, each with its own effect on the taste. If you want to know more about the processing methods of coffee, I would like to refer you to our blog.
The ideal growing conditions for coffee
Specialty coffee is grown under ideal growing conditions, which influence the taste, quality and unique properties of the coffee beans. While there is no perfect formula for growing specialty coffee, there are several factors that affect the quality and taste of the coffee.
For the ideal factors I will return to the chapters discussed above. As mentioned, one of the most important factors when growing specialty coffee is the height at which the coffee plants are grown. In general, coffee grown at higher elevations has better taste and quality. This is because the coffee plants grow more slowly at higher altitudes and absorb less moisture and nutrients.
In addition, coffee thrives best at temperatures between 18 and 23 degrees Celsius, with warmer temperatures ensuring faster growth and less complex flavors.
Another important factor in growing specialty coffee that I have discussed earlier in the blog is soil type. Coffee plants thrive best in soil that is rich in organic matter and well-drained. This ensures a balanced growth of the plants and contributes to the development of the complex flavors and aromas of the coffee beans.
And finally, precipitation affects the growing conditions of coffee. Coffee plants need an average of between 1500 and 2000 millimeters of rain per year to grow optimally. Too much or too little precipitation can lead to lower yields and less complex flavors and aromas.
By taking these factors into account, coffee farmers can create the ideal growing conditions for specialty coffee to produce the best possible taste and quality of coffee beans. But remember that there are no set conditions that lead to the perfect specialty coffee bean, fortunately, because otherwise most specialty coffees might taste the same. It is precisely the differences in geography and circumstances that bring out beautiful unique flavors.
This article shows that the growing conditions of coffee have a major influence on the quality and taste of the coffee beans. In order to produce specialty coffee, coffee farmers must take into account factors such as altitude, temperature, soil type and precipitation. By optimizing these factors, coffee farmers can develop the complex flavors and aromas of the coffee beans to produce high quality specialty coffee. It is therefore very important that we are aware of the growing conditions of coffee and the efforts of coffee farmers to produce the best coffee.