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.

Kiva; July update

Here is our monthly Kiva update for you! We are super proud to share with you that this month, with your help, we have raised $144.65 for Kiva. This has enabled us to help fund micro loans to another 6 people, helping a total of 9 so far. Please read below for more info on the profiles of the people we support.

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva; Liem's Group in Vietnam

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva; Liem’s Group in Vietnam

Liem was born in 1977 and joined M7-MFI’s forerunner program in January 1998. Her family consists of her husband, two sons and herself. They live in Mai Son district, Son La province.Her family cultivates 1.2 hectare of corn and 2000 square meters of rice. The income is just enough to cover the family’s living expenses and save a small amount of money. She has to spend money on her children’s education and her savings is not enough to buy corn for the next crop. She will work hard to get money to repay the loan  on time, and hopes that the loan will help her to buy good corn and then it will bring her family an abundant crop.
Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Jose Andres from Honduras

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Jose Andres from Honduras

José Andrés, age 39, grows organic coffee that he sells through COCAFCAL [a coffee cooperative]. José Andrés is married to Sandra, and they have four children who are completely dependent upon him. José Andrés dreams of giving his children the best that he can, and he wants all of them to have an education. José Andrés has been growing coffee for ten years, and it has become the foundation of his finances. “Coffee is the best that we can have in this area,” he says. Last year José Andrés lost one hectare of his coffee farm due to an attack of the ‘roya’ fungus. He wants to replant that land to begin the production again as soon as possible because it is his only source of income. José Andrés is now requesting a loan in order to be able to cover the expenses of replanting the land that was affected by the roya. He will use the loan to buy plants, organic fertilizer, organic supplies, and to pay the workers.
Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Pochol 1 D Group in Guatemala

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Pochol 1 D Group in Guatemala

Magdalena is a 46-year-old woman, is married and lives together with her two children, aged 19 and 24 years, in a community of Nahuala. Magdalena (the first on the left side of the photograph), with the desire to earn income and provide for her children, has made a living selling coffee for the last 12 years in a place called Pochol. In order to maintain several coffee plots that she has cultivated for some time, Magdalena needs a good quantity of money in order to be able to acquire her fertilizers and pay for labor. However, one of the difficulties that she has is that she does not have sufficient capital. For this reason, she organized a group of women so that together they can request a loan and invest the money according to their needs. Magdalena’s great dream is to set up a store selling groceries in her house in order to improve her income.
Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Judith in Kenya

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Judith in Kenya

Judith has a strong conviction in her mind that in order to succeed, she must work extra hard and always stay strong and positive in the face of any adversities that may arise. Judith is a 43-year-old farmer from Kibiricha village where she practices dairy farming. Judith and her husband are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year! The couple is blessed with 3 children.

Judith’s main source of income is milk. She co-owns a four acre land that they use to keep three dairy cows. Recently, one of her cows delivered a calf. Judith is afraid that the upcoming rainy season will be harsh on her calf who does not have a shelter. She is appealing to Kiva lenders to lend her a loan to construct shelter for her animals. Your investment will help Judith build a pen that will provide a comfortable and conducive environment for the proper development of her calf and that of future calves.

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Las Cumplidas Group from Bolivia

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Las Cumplidas Group from Bolivia

Yesica is a 19-year-old young woman, single, with no children, and her business is selling traditional drinks.

She is enterprising, happy, optimistic, cheerful, has a positive attitude, is responsible, and very hard-working. Her business is located in a sales stall outside her house, located in the southern area of the city, where the beaches of the Piraí River are located. There, are the huts that offer traditional food to eat such as majadito (dried meat), patasca (baked pig’s head), and locro (a mix of meats with corn), among others. The flavorful “horneaos” are also sold, ideal to accompany coffee in the afternoon. It has a warm sub-tropical climate with a constant temperature of approximately 30 degrees centigrade during the whole year.

Yesica’s native language is Quechua which she speaks in her family and she speaks Spanish due to the general culture and for the work she does (she is third from the left). She has her life in her parents’ house, who work in a business in the market. They live in a house they own, built of wood with a dirt floor which has drinking water, electricity and sewer service. Her desires to improve herself brought her to lead a bank of people with business such as tomato sales, sewing shop, second-hand clothing sales, woven products, fish sales, construction service, and making mattresses, to ask for a loan and improve their businesses. Her business is the sale of traditional drinks from the area such as mocochinchi (made with boiled dried peaches), chicha (prepared with a corn base), somó (similar to chicha but includes boiled corn), and more. “My business continues improving, the previous loan allowed me to start, now I need to improve…” she says. The advantage of her business is that it has regular customers. The disadvantage is the lack of money to improve the business. Her dream is to have a large food stand where she can offer a variety of traditional food and drinks. She wants to invest in the purchase of tables and chairs to be able to serve more customers. This is her 3rd loan cycle with the institution in the 6 years she has been doing this work.

For these reasons, Yesica asks for a loan to purchase tables and chairs to be able to serve a larger number of customers and improve her sales.

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Violetas Group from Bolivia

Sponsored by Quest through Kiva: Violetas Group from Bolivia

The communal bank “Violetas” will be starting its sixth term in Pro Mujer, part of the business center of Los Andes. It is comprised of nine members and run by a directors board where Flora is the Secretary. The members of the communal bank run a wide variety of businesses, selling everything from wool sweaters or shoes or jackets to fried snacks and other foods.

This loan will benefit all of the small business owners in Flora’s group. She herself has been a member of Pro Mujer for two years and joined at the invitation of a friend who was a client of the institution. She currently runs a business selling salchipapa, a typical snack of sausage and fried potatoes. She began this business on her own initiative.

She plans to use this loan to expand her capital through the wholesale purchase of potato and sausage, which she will get from the wholesale vendors in the city of El Alto. She will then use this material to make and sell salchipapa in her sales space. This work allows her to generate enough money to support her family economically, as she is single and has eight children.

When asked what she likes best about Pro Mujer, she said that she likes the health clinic and the training that the institution provides. (In the photo, Katty and Paola appear behind the woman in the hat.)

Thank you from us and Kiva!

If you feel inspired to help Kiva yourself or want to see more of the work they do, make sure you check out our blogpost here to find out why we LOVE helping them or go straight to their website to get lending.  Every little contribution goes a long way.

Kiva; June update

Here is our monthly Kiva update for you! We are super proud to share with you that this month, with your help, we have raised $125.20 for Kiva. This has enabled us to help fund micro loans to the 3 people below.


Roselyn from the Philippines – needs feed and supplies for her livestock

Roselyn is 46 years old and has six children. She is married, and one of her children is in school.

Roselyn is in the agricultural business, raising livestock in the Philippines. She requested a PHP 25,000 loan through NWTF in order to buy feed and other supplies to raise her livestock.

Roselyn has been raising livestock for twenty years now, and has borrowed four times in the past from NWTF to sustain her business.

In the future, Roselyn would like to save enough money to expand her business.


Elmer from Peru – needs to buy plant food and fertiliser for his crops plus pay for labour costs during the harvest

Elmer, aged 29, lives with his wife and his young son in his own home in the Cañaris district, a farming and livestock community located in the Ferreñafe province of the Lambayeque region on Peru’s northern coast.

He has been growing coffee for the last 10 years, and has regular clients who have given him good personal and professional references. The loan will be used to buy plant food and fertiliser for his crops, and to pay for labour during the harvest, which he hopes will allow him to offer his clients a better product, increasing his earnings so that he can improve his family’s quality of life.


Mango Group 3 from Guatemala – need money to expand the stores and continue to fatten and sell pigs

Rosa began working with her father at the age of 6 years.  She worked in the fields using a machete. Rosa worked harvesting cardamom and coffee but the work was too hard.  She was one of 11 siblings – 6 boys and 5 girls – she said she does not remember her father.

Rosa has been using the credit from Kiva Partner Asociación Chajulense de Mujeres – Unidas por la Vida for two years, and is getting now her third credit.  She used her first credit to initiate a store for selling vegetables.  She also invested in pigs and fattened them up.

With her second credit she began selling other products in her store and continued buying and fattening pigs.  Now, with her third one, she will use her credit to expand her store and use part of the credit to continue fattening and selling pigs.

Rosa considers that the financial help that she obtains from Kiva and the Association of Women United for Life has given her the opportunity to contribute, with her husband, to achieve better health, feeding and education for their children.

Rosa is the leader of Mango Group 3 (Mango Fruit).  The group is formed by 9 women – average age is 38 years and in average they have 4 children.  The average amount of the group loan is Q 3,289. The group will invest their credit to expand their stores that sells vegetables, staple goods, or chicken meat.

Thank you from us and Kiva!

If you feel inspired to help Kiva yourself or want to see more of the work they do, make sure you check out our blogpost here to find out why we LOVE helping them or go straight to their website to get lending.  Every little contribution goes a long way.