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How does Altitude affect the flavour of your coffee?

If you’ve purchased beans in our James Street, Burleigh Heads café, or visited our online store, you would have noticed that each bean has a general description and each of those mention the altitude that the bean is grown at. Looks a bit confusing right?

We are going to help you understand a little more about how altitude affects the flavour of your coffee. In turn, this should help you find a coffee that you love (if you haven’t found one already).

Why is altitude important?

High altitude coffee plantation

High altitude coffee plantation

Altitude not only affects the shape and size of the bean but has a big impact on the taste of the coffee. In a previous blog of ours, ‘The 5 differences between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans’, we talk about how Arabica is grown at a higher altitude (600-2000m) in cooler sub-tropical climates, while Robusta can be grown at sea level, in warmer climates.

High altitude coffee plantation

Low altitude coffee plantation

How does altitude affect the characteristics of the bean?

When you look at green coffee (pre-roasted), the physical appearance can tell a lot about the altitude it is grown at. It can be small and dense, the colour can range from jade to a blue or light green and the opening of the bean would be either straight, open, closed or zig-zagged.

We won’t get too technical here but will say that a lower altitude bean would be partly opened and less dense. The colour would vary depending on the variety of the bean and the way it is processed. A higher altitude bean is a strictly hard bean (SHB) and would be closed and perhaps have a little zig-zagging. The bean would be very dense, which is a direct result of the slow rate of growth in a high-altitude environment.

Green coffee bean characteristics

Low altitude v High altitude…

Low altitude coffee has a lower acidity and the flavour is often very mild and bland. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a high altitude coffee (the most sought after due to its taste) would produce a more acidic and aromatic cup of coffee which is full of flavour.

Our best selling bean here at Quest is Guatemala Finca La Ruda and is a high altitude bean. Here is an example of its characteristics:

Guatemala Finca La Ruda characteristics

Guatemala Finca La Ruda characteristics

We’ve simplified the differences between altitude and flavour:

  • below 2,500 feet (762m) – soft, mild, simple and bland. We generally don’t sell beans which are grown at this altitude. Our exception would be the infamous Indian Monsoon some of you would remember us stocking. The processing of this bean is directly responsible for the exceptional flavour compared to other low altitude beans;
  • around 3,000 feet (914m) – smooth, sweet and low acidity;
  • around 4,000 feet (1,200m) – citrus, vanilla, chocolate or nutty tones;
  • above 5,000 feet (1,500m) – spicy, floral or fruity.
Altitude flavours

Altitude flavours

Now that we have broken down the importance of altitude, we hope that your decision making process the next time you order coffee at Quest is much simpler.

Written by Therese Glowaski.

The 5 differences between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans

… and why we think Arabica Coffee (preferably Organic) is always the way to go if you want a super tasty coffee.

Time to learn something new about your beloved hot and cold beverage. You probably say coffee all looks a bit the same once it is roasted and it is pretty hard to see the actual difference but there are some significant ones and it’s helpful to know what they are when you are choosing a coffee.

Did you know there are over 100 different coffee species in the world? That said we only use 2 in commercial coffee production; the Arabica (Coffea arabica) and the Robusta (Coffea robusta). 

The difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.

The difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.

Here are the 6 main differences between the two mighty beans:

  1. Robusta beans have a much higher level of caffeine than Arabica beans, yes it’s almost double the amount.
  2. Arabica beans have a milder, more aromatic taste while Robusta beans have a stronger, harsher taste, with a grain-like overtone and peanutty aftertaste.
  3. When the coffee beans are un-roasted (green), the beans can easily be told apart by their difference in colour and shape as Arabica beans are a darker shade of green, flat and elongated, the Robusta beans have a more obvious round shape.
  4. Robusta is easier to grow on the farm, has a higher yield and is less sensitive to insects – the high caffeine level is a chemical defense for the coffee bean as this amount in the Robusta is toxic to bugs. Arabica coffee is also grown at a higher altitude (600 – 2000 meters) and in cooler sub-tropical climates while Robusta can be grown at sea level.
  5. Over 70% of the coffee grown around the world is Arabica. And although Arabica is generally known as the higher quality bean, there are many high quality blends of Robusta available on the market too.

So you want to know what we use at Quest?

We only use the best Organic, Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance Arabica coffee beans available and roast them fresh for you daily. You can find them all here in the shop and we will make sure they will be on there way to you within 24 hours, or come in and say hi at our cafe on the beautiful Gold Coast; we are Burleigh Heads (20 James Street) and have a chat to our friendly baristas.