Farming Practices ...
Farming practices selected by a farm also impact your coffee’s quality and flavor. It's during this time that the natural flavors of coffee beans first start developing.
Let’s examine some of these farming practices that make specialty coffee taste the way it does.
Slow Cherry Development
Practices that slow the development of a coffee cherry end up promoting rich flavor. The slower the process, the more time a cherry has to develop sugars and density.
Altitude is key
The most flavorful coffee bean, Arabica, takes advantage of special growing conditions. Altitude is a key factor and flavor is actually enhanced at higher elevations.
Cooler temperatures at higher elevations slow the growth cycle. The slower cycle encourages more complex sugars and compelling flavors to develop. Most high quality specialty coffee is grown at high altitude.
Volcanic Soil is Perfect for Coffee
Water retention and drainage is very important for coffee plant growth. Many specialty coffee farms take advantage of volcanic soil to grow their coffee. Countries like Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Mexico have dormant volcanoes perfect for growing Specialty Coffee.
Soil needs to absorb water to maximize the nutrients for the plant. Soil also needs to drain water well so the plant roots don't rot.
Volcanic soil helps to both hold and drain water. The high silicate glass content ensures that water evacuates the soil, while organic matter provides high levels of nutrients for plant life.
When you purchase a Specialty Coffee that was grown at high elevations in volcanic soil, you can be certain that the quality of that coffee will be high.
Shade-Grown Specialty Coffee
Shade-grown coffee means exactly that: coffee plants grown under the shade of trees. Coffee grown underneath a natural forest canopy provides many benefits.
Shade growing practices are very much like organic practices. Both methods improve the farm in the long term and improve the soil and plant health.
Mono-cropping grows coffee trees in rows, much like large corn fields. In contrast, shade growing techniques increase biodiversity by planting coffee underneath shade trees.
The increased diversity of shade trees:
- Helps transfer nutrients
- Creates organic matter as leaves fall
- Prevents erosion during rainy season
- Helps to maintain the native birds and plants of the area
A major factor in the development of coffee quality is the harvest method.
Delicious specialty coffee requires a lot of effort at this stage. Harvesters are focused on only picking the ripe coffee cherries. Specialty Coffee grown at elevation requires this harvesting to be performed by hand.
Hand-picking ensures that only the ripest, most flavorful cherries are used in the coffee processing methods.
Large machines used in commercial harvesting will pick unripe and ripe cherries. Unripe cherries produce low quality coffee since the sugars have not had time to develop.