The Coffee Belt

The Coffee Belt

This belt holds all the goods in place

The coffee belt? What in the world is that? Actually the question is, where in the world is that? The coffee belt covers the equatorial regions of the earth where coffee is most easily grown. Roughly 25 degrees from both north and south of the equator. These zones are primarily Tropic and so Arabica (most popular amongst consumers) grows happily in the humid and sun soaked soil. Just like a belt, this zone is perfect for growth and also offers some peaks. Mountains to be specific. Mountains offer elevation which is perfect for the delicate balance of shade, sun, soil, rain, humidity and other components needed for a healthy harvest. I’m sure by now you’re wondering what all these gardening terms mean when it comes to your morning brew. Elevation along with soil and humidity all play a huge role in how the coffee will taste. Some of the largest producers of coffee include Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ethiopia. All of these regions have different climates and elevation associated with them that affect the flavor profile of the coffee.

Some believe that coffee grown at higher elevations is of higher quality. With that high quality comes more complex flavor notes than coffee grown at lower elevations. Cooler temperatures mean that the beans grow more slowly, and the cherry surrounding them ripens more gradually. This extra time allows for the complex flavors to develop. Typically coffee grown at a very high altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level is associated with the most desirable flavor profiles such as florals, stone fruits and berries. A bit lower down the elevation scale lies our most popular coffee from Brazil. The majority of coffee from Brazil is grown around 4,000 feet above sea level and boasts notes of chocolate, sweetness and nuttiness. Low altitude coffees 3,000 ft tend to taste earthy and less exciting. Bean density is believed to be the key to the flavor lock and a slow grown cool bean is best to achieve that.

In addition to elevation and temperature, soil and location within the coffee belt plays another important role in coffee flavor development. Being located near a volcano leaves the soil rich in nutrients and is porous enough to allow for adequate draining of the coffee shrubs shallow root system. Adequate rainfall in these regions is crucial as well not only for plant growth but also for processing post harvest. Regions in the coffee belt that receive heavy rainfall such as Costa Rica and Indonesia can face problems when attempting to utilize certain processing methods. In addition areas of frequent drought in Africa have the opposite issue.

The belt is very important when it comes to growth and loss of coffee plants. Higher elevations and cooler temperatures offer sweeter and fruitier coffees. While further towards sea level we find a more earthy and subdued cup. In addition to processing methods, it can be helpful to use the elevation as a guide to helping you choose your coffee. The sweet fruit at the top of the tree and earthy roots at the bottom. Rain, sunshine, soil and elevation are all stuffed in and held together by the coffee belt.

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