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TAKE A PEEK : Where is Coffee Grown Best?

Written By Delano Staff 12 Aug 2020
TAKE A PEEK : Where is Coffee Grown Best?

THE BEAN BELT

 
Coffee is generally grown best in the tropical regions, specifically 23-30 degrees north and south of the equator. This area is popularly known as the 'Bean Belt'.
 
This is where the conditions are most ideal for healthy coffee plants, due to a combination of rich volcanic soil, a specific tropical microclimate that exists above a certain altitude, consistent rainfall and limited pests and diseases that affect the coffee plants.
 
 

ALTITUDE

 
At different altitudes, humidity and temperature will vary greatly over a day/night period. This creates unique microclimates that directly influence the speed at which coffee cherries ripen and develop flavours. Coffee cherries ripen slower in low temperatures and quicker in hotter temperatures.
 
In higher altitudes where it's drier and cooler, the temperature drops significantly at night which causes the ripening process to pause momentarily, therefore delaying the coffee’s growth cycle. This extends the maturation process creating fuller flavours and more pronounced acidity. Upon full maturation, when coffee cherries are ready for harvest, sweet berry-like and floral flavours become more apparent. For this reason, coffee grown at high altitudes is generally more sought after.
 
Lower down the mountain, it stays relatively warm and humid throughout the day and night, and coffee cherries ripen and mature quicker. Due to this they simply has less time to develop sugars and acids. This is partly the reason why coffee grown in lower altitudes lack floral and berry-like flavours and instead, develop more chocolatey, nutty and less acidic flavours.
 
 
 

VARIETAL

Robusta (a species of coffee) is typically grown in lower altitudes as it can withstand harsher conditions and warmer temperatures. Robusta is commonly used to make instant coffee or as a filler component of a coffee blend. It is produced inexpensively, com pared to Arabica, due to its higher yields from quicker ripening times.

As Arabica grows better at high altitudes where temperatures and conditions are more mild, it is slower to ripen and yields less cherries per tree, which makes it more expensive. However, the flavours that accompany it make arabicas more favourable in the coffee world.
 

 
TEMPERATURE  

Aside from the development of flavours, incorrect temperature also influences the growth of other microorganisms and could cause diseases and fungi growth which is detrimental to the plants health and crop yield. Climate change has seen the slow resurgence of coffee borer beetles and the Lay Roya fungus in many coffee producing areas.


 
SOIL 

Like other plants, coffee photosynthesises energy from the heat of the sun and absorbs nutrients and water from the soil through their roots. For coffee plants to grow well, it is ideal that the soil is rich in trace minerals and nutrients. Soil from popular coffee regions is known to be more fertile and nutrient rich from volcanic ash or andisols from previous volcanic eruptions. Andisols are rich in trace minerals like magnesium, zinc and iron, essential for a healthy coffee tree. While a good balance of Potassium, Nitrogen and Phosphorus are also important, all of which is generally looked after by farmers.
 
 
 
Whilst altitude and region play a role in determining high quality specialty coffee, due to the combination of temperature, soil quality and altitude, the most important factor is actually the agricultural practices of the coffee producer. How they grow, pick and process the coffee cherries has a very big influence on the flavours developed during roasting and brewing.

Stay tuned for more when we dive into farming and processing on our next newsletter.