After cupping coffees from around the world we have found that the best gourmet coffee is from single-source Arabica beans that originate from the slopes of volcanic mountains. The rich volcanic soil combined with the high altitude and abundant moisture from the clouds produce a remarkable coffee that cannot be matched by any other variety.
If you look at the most famous and best gourmet coffees, Jamaica Blue Mountain, Kona and Costa Rican, there is one common trait, each of them are grown in volcanic mountain regions. Like the finest wine regions of France and Italy, the best gourmet coffee have a areas were the bean flavor thrives. The two most important aspects of the best gourmet coffee are soil and altitude.
Volcanic Soil Factors to the Best Gourmet Coffee
The hot lava that emit from volcanoes is from the center of the earth, rich in nutrients that have been formed over the centuries that have recently been brought to the surface of the earth’s crust. The nutrient deterioration is limited having not been exposed to sun and air. The lava is cooled and mixed with ash as it settles. The result is a rich soil that is the fertile host to some of the most famous tropical rain forests.
The best gourmet coffee plants are nurtured during its growth by this volcanic soil as it matures. The tropical rainforest that surround many of these coffee farms are home to many birds that feed on pests that damage the coffee plants. This natural selection is a benefit to the farmer as they do not need to rely of pesticides. In addition to the cost saving to the coffee farmer their coffee can then qualify as organic grade which they can then sell at a higher price.
High Altitude Factors Resulting in the Best Coffee
At higher elevations many different factors come together to growing the best gourmet coffee. Late afternoon cloud cover protects the coffee plants from an excessive amount of direct sunlight. The clouds contain moisture that gently waters the coffee plants through its leaves rather than through its roots.
The best gourmet coffees are mostly rated with a SHB rating, which means Strictly Hard Bean rating. The coffee bean grown at higher altitudes is much harder than those grown at lower elevations. This distinction places the coffee bean in the category of the best gourmet coffee rating on world coffee markets.
The downside of growing this coffee at higher elevations is the difficulty in farming process. Farms at this level are near the peaks of mountain formations which is very steep. You can imagine the difficulty of 1 driving vehicles to these remote locations with few paved roads. At times the terrain is almost at a 45 degree angle making it very difficult to plant, cultivate, inspect and pick the coffee beans from side of a mountain. More manual labor is required not only for cultivation but also for transporting the baskets heavy with the best coffee beans. The remoteness of these locations also make it a long and difficult to transport them to the ports of distribution to world markets. The roads are often rough and rocky winding up and down mountain sides and usually beside a dangerous cliff. You can image the inherent danger involved just in transporting a heavy truck load of the best coffee. Years ago in Costa Rica this long journey was done by ox cart requiring a few days of travel to reach the capital city of San Jose for market. The farmers would walk along side their ox drive cart pulling their payload. The farmers would paint colorful designs on the large wooden ox cart wheels which has become a symbol of Costa Rican heritage even to this day.