Next time you are standing in the grocery store, faced with the plethora of coffee options. Ask yourself: “Where was this coffee grown?” Which should lead to the logical follow up question: “How fresh is this coffee?”
Coffee growing regions are limited to a very small number of ideal locations! For the Coffee to thrive, it requires a temperate climate, high-altitude, warmth (but not too much warmth) and high constant humidity to grow. The only areas in the world that meet these stringent requirement for growing conditions fall between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Looking at a world map it becomes obvious that there is only a limited amount of landmass that falls between the tropics.
Robusta - as the name suggests is more “robust” and able to grow in a multitude of conditions including harsher, less shady conditions and at much lower altitudes than its picky cousin - Arabica. Robusta produces a much larger (heavier) bean with higher caffeine content, and grows to maturity much faster than Arabica…. all of this combine to mean that the requirements for where Robusta will grow are not as stringent as they are for Arabica.
On the other hand, Coffea Arabica requires more time and patience on the part of the coffee farmer. It also requires a higher-altitude, usually in less hospitable areas. Additional criteria include: shade, specific soil conditions and many more factors to grow well. All of this resulting in much smaller crops, however these smaller crops of Arabica Varietals are of much higher quality and flavour than Robusta, and at much higher prices. Let's digress for a moment as we briefly discuss the first major economic dilemma facing the coffee farmer – ‘Quality or Quantity’? We have discussed this before in this FAQ, but essentially, the farmer faces a decision regarding what coffee to grow and where. If we (the “Coffee consuming public”) are only willing to offer the coffee farmer any economic benefits based on volume (large quantities (think giant cans) of low quality coffee), then we cannot expect any change towards farmers motivated to grow a quality cup.
The main coffee growing regions of the World are:
Pacific/ South East Asia:
Even within these regions there are areas that are better suited to coffee production than others. In order for a region to be considered a truly premium Arabica coffee producing area the following factors must be met:
1. An altitude of at least 1200m above see level, but ideally over 1400m.
2. Various unique microclimates within a small region.
3. Excellent, year-round precipitation.
4. Optimal variations between Day and Night temperatures
5. Ready access to high quality seed.
6. A level of education regarding the physical and economic benefits of producing a “quality” crop as opposed to a “quantity” crop.
7. Well established know-how about the cultivation and processing of different coffee varieties.
Simply put, there are only a handful of small farms producing micro-lots that meet the stringent expectations for quality to become a FIX! Coffee.