Most people perceive the tropics, to which coffee is native, as being the ideal hot and humid environment – but that is not always the case. The best coffee actually comes from the cooler, more temperate environments of the higher mountainous regions within the tropics. Conditions most suitable for coffee growing include: abundant rainfall, mean annual temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and well drained, nutrient-rich soils – elements that can be found at a variety of altitudes. Coffee is cultivated at all altitudes from sea level up to the frost level.
Lower Elevation Grown (not used by BPR)
Lower elevations push the ideal growing conditions to one end of an extreme. In this hot and humid environment, with its excessive year-round rainfall, coffee trees produce fruit almost endlessly with no particular season, as the higher temperatures tend to accelerate ripening. Due to excessive rotting of fruit, the natural coffee tree’s response is to produce an excessive quantity of fruit to overwhelm the adverse conditions, so that a few of the seeds make it to the next growing season. As a result, these coffee end up with a SCAA cupping score well below 85. High acidity, poor mouthfill, and flavors that often have a higher bitter bite (either on the front or back of the cup), as well as higher in caffeine, and quite undesirable overall. Yet, the tendency of these lowland coffees to be inexpensive and easy to grow makes them ideal for large mass production companies to use.
Higher mountainous elevations are significantly different by stretching the growing conditions to the other extreme. Rainfall is limited, and the much cooler temperatures at these altitudes slow down growth, causing the beans to mature more gradually and develop more flavor essence. The cold nights at this elevation really slow down plant growth. The soils in these rugged mountainous terrains tend to be thinner and likely volcanic, and without rich soil there is low nourishing support for the coffee trees. In response to these conditions, the trees only produce a small annual yield averaging about one pound per tree every year. The reward, each one of those beans is full of valuable oils and coffee flavor. These coffees, because of their low yield nature, tend not to be very abundant. However, their scarcity, along with the special attention required for their cultivation, makes these genuine mountain-grown or special hard bean (SHB) coffees more costly and special than the mass-produced, commercial varieties. Wrought from these extreme conditions is a flavor that is worth all the hardship driving BPR to focus on these unique and intense flavor profiles.