SHG (Strictly High Grown) coffee – Defined as a coffee tree grown at an altitude of between 1,200 – 1,370m above sea level. At an altitude of over 1200m, coffee trees have a long growth cycle, the process of accumulating nutrients in coffee beans takes longer, so the beans have a firm structure with a richer and more balanced flavor.
Why does altitude above 1200m affect coffee?
As we all know, the height and the coffee plant are closely related; this is one of the decisive factors for the growth ability and the quality of coffee beans. The higher it is planted, the slower the coffee tree will grow. The process of “growing” the fruit is slow, helping the fruit to develop fully in flavor and structure.
Some other coffee classifications related to altitude include:
- Soft Bean (SB) and Strictly Soft Bean (SSB) generally refer to coffees grown at altitudes below 1,200m.
- Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) or Strictly High Grown (SHG) refers to coffee trees grown above 1,370m.
Although there is a correlation between altitude and coffee growth, it is not an absolute rule. For example, Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee is grown at a lower level than SHG’s but has a high market price. Or the closest is the Central Highlands coffee area on the Di Linh plateau or Son La coffee – the Northwest region of Vietnam is evaluated as an original coffee of very high quality.
After all, altitude is just one of many factors affecting coffee beans’ quality, including soil and climate conditions and coffee varieties. Coffee is very subjective.
SHG coffee price is always higher than market price?
The air temperature will be lower at higher altitudes, resulting in slower coffee growth, more extended fruit accumulation, and more prolonged ripening. Thus, the beans have a higher nutrient density and higher maintenance. Simply put, beans with a higher density contain more sugars & nutrients, resulting in a more complex and delicious flavor profile – this is a significant reason why coffee costs more.
However, this is just the surface of the problem; the actual value of SHG coffee also comes from the following reasons.
Altitude and seed source
Because the altitude above 1200m is not a small thing, and the higher you go, the more complex the cultivation mode is because it consumes a lot of labor involved in moving equipment, supplies, and farming tools up. And transport the harvested coffee to the port. This results in slightly higher costs for farmers.
In addition, no one wants to put in the effort to bring to the mountain an ordinary coffee variety with poor quality. Most high-altitude coffees come from suitable Arabica varieties such as Typica or Bourbon. Here I am talking about one of the elements of Specialty Coffee, which is the potential farm (Potential). And so when “down the mountain,” strictly high grown coffee will start into a rather strict processing and preservation process, to be labeled Specialty Coffee so that the price will be higher than ordinary coffee.
Not a lot of highly cultivated coffee
Another fact is that not everywhere in the world is higher than 1,200m, it is possible to cultivate coffee trees. This is just one of the critical factors for high-quality coffee. It also includes soil quality, rainfall, annual average temperature… and being in the optimal latitude region. So there are only a few countries on the coffee map that can cultivate SHG coffee.
Another factor is that when at high altitudes, coffee trees have a longer growth cycle, are not thoroughly cared for by humans, but are highly dependent on nature so that fewer trees will grow fresh. Good and fruit yield is also difficult to match the trees in the lower area – with better growing conditions. Therefore, it is assumed that SHG coffee will be “rare” in the market.
Finally, most SHG coffee comes from East Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania. And some countries in Central – South America. Economic conditions of the people are not high, so under the support of government (or non-governmental organizations), coffee will be protected by fair trade, organic care – Organic Coffee, and some other certifications in each country…with these factors. Buyers will pay a little more to ensure the sustainable development of the environment and the livelihood of coffee farmers.
Cultivation areas for SHG coffee
Divided according to the world coffee map in each region, there will be coffee-producing countries with suitable heights or sometimes even above SHG standards, such as:
- African countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania,
- South America: Sao Paulo of Brazil or Colombia
- Tung America: Guatemala, Costa Rica ….
- Some regions of Asia, such as Sumatra Sulawesi of Indonesia.