In the professional world, highland coffee is any type of coffee whose plant bushes have ripened at an altitude of between 800 and 2000 meters. At heights of over 1500 meters, the term pure highland coffee is common. The fine arabica bean develops particularly well in the mild climate of shady heights. There, it ripens in about nine months – four months longer than the Robusta, which grows in deeper regions. The Arabica is sometimes called Hochkaffee; Too much simplification: There is just as delicious Robusta coffee as the simple Arabica blend grown in the highlands.
A good coffee is like a good wine
Basically, every good coffee gets its individual taste first of all from the growing region. It has a special soil with an unmistakable combination of nutrients. The climate and the interaction with other plants in the vegetation environment also contribute to this. But to turn a good bean into a hot, black pleasure, it needs love and knowledgeable processing. Seen in this way, a good coffee is made just like a good wine. Hochland coffee is particularly tasty when it is grown in wild forests. Because these represent the natural environmental conditions of the Arabica-Coffee bush. Cultivated in this way, it forms a mature and diverse aroma with mild acidity.
Growing areas from Ethiopia to Hawaii
Coffee plants generally only grow in a narrow belt along the equator. It is amazing how many areas around the world are available for cultivation in the highlands. This includes the plateaus of East Africa. Ethiopia is the second highest region on the continent and also the country of origin of the coffee plant. In the much larger neighboring state of Kenya, the plants grow on plantations of up to 2100 meters. A strong, spicy but balanced coffee ripens around Mount Kenya.
In Latin America, the growing areas belong to different countries. In Mexico it is the Sierra Madre and on the western side of the subcontinent it is the Andes that allow coffee to be grown at high altitudes. Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil – the latter is the world’s largest producer of this luxury food – also have plantations for highland coffee.
In Asia, it is the Purosa region in Papua New Guinea which, with its mineral, volcanic soil, has the best conditions for these coffee beans to flourish. On the Asian mainland, it is the India Monsooned Malabar that develops a very special aroma. Here the coffee plants are exposed to the humid monsoon climate for weeks, which also creates this whiskey-like taste.
In the Caribbean, highland coffee grows in the Blue Mountain range in Jamaica. Here the coffee cherries get a lot of time to ripen in an often foggy climate on mineral-rich soils. Everything together leads to an aroma that is very well balanced between sweet and sour. Lovers pay 70 euros/ 85 dollars for a pound (500 grams) of this variety.
The altitude of the plantations on the volcanoes offers fantastic conditions for the coffee plant: The beans develop a rich, fruity aroma. The Kona variety is famous from Hawaii, the plantations for it are located on the volcanic slopes of Mauna Kea and Loa Hualalei.
Colombia is an example of highland coffee
Colombia, the fourth largest coffee-growing country in the world, is a good example of the history of highland coffee. In 1808, the coffee bean came to this country through a clergyman from the French West Indies via Venezuela. In the Andean country, 66 percent of global arabica production is growing today. The varieties grown and produced here with their round, slightly sweet nut aroma are exemplary for the enjoyment quality of coffee. The location of the plantation areas in the Cordilleras and the special methods of cultivation, harvest and production create this very special pleasure.
The hand picking, a special fermentation process of the coffee cherries and the subsequent outdoor drying contribute to the unmistakable taste. But fair labor and trade relationships are also a success factor. The National Coffee Fund offers growers a purchase guarantee and minimum prices through cooperatives. The Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC) also cultivates the special knowledge of coffee cultivation in the highlands. It ensures the transmission from one generation to the next and offers training.
Coffee from Costa Rica for the first fair trade projects
Costa Rica, located in Central America, is also a successful example that, in addition to highland cultivation, political stability and fair trade are among the success factors of good coffee. This country also suffers from the global decline in coffee prices in the 1980s. However, with its social stability in this politically troubled region of the world, it is known as the “Switzerland of Latin America”. So it is no coincidence that coffee from Costa Rica was one of the first fair trade projects with Europe.
Here the small farmers formed cooperatives early on. There are living wages and other social standards for the workers on the coffee plantations. All of this and the sometimes remote cultivation areas up to 1,800 meters above sea level make Costa Rican coffee a little more expensive. But consumers are happy to pay for it because of its excellent quality. In the Tarrazu highlands and in the Tres Rios areas – as everywhere in this country – only arabica bushes grow. The cultivated areas here are of volcanic origin and benefit from the climatic influences of two oceans: the Atlantic and the Pacific.
The coffee bushes have a dense structure, the beans develop a fine aroma. The fair cultivation, working and trade conditions contribute to the fact that the small farmers feel responsible for the quality of their work. With their cooperatives, they are in healthy competition with one another, which benefits everyone involved. The highland coffee ensures that fair trade products find their way out of the “dirty corner” of solidarity coffee. “Coffee has to be black, sweet, hot and has to be fair trade”, says the Society for the Promotion of Partnership with the Third World (GEPA). It is one of the fair trade trading partners and helps to give the highland coffee the good image it now has. Many other growing countries are now also benefiting from this idea.
Conclusion: enjoyment with a fair trade factor
Those who choose Hochland coffee are choosing the best that the Arabica bean has to offer. In addition to the good growing regions, expert harvesting and roasting as well as often fair working conditions for coffee farmers and producers guarantee such quality. If you drink the coffee with a clear conscience, you can enjoy the quality a little more.