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Impact of altitude on the coffee harvesting process

As we approached mid January of 2022 and producers harvested around 20% of all the coffee in the high altitude regions of Guatemala, we were able to have a very nice chat with Mauricio Rosales, owner of the La Linda Estate in Huehuetenango. We spoke about how the weather influences the harvesting process for the different altitudes in the various coffee regions in the country.

Mauricio tells us that the coffee harvest for the different altitudes is related to the different climate that these regions have. Low altitude coffee regions have a very different climate than high altitude coffee regions. This allows the process of coffee flowering to occur at different moments in the year and this flowering is what sets the pattern for when the coffee is going to be harvested, since the fruit ripens around 260 days after the moment of flowering.

In low altitude regions, flowering can occur from January or February to March or April when there has been little rain. In much higher altitude regions, the flowering of the coffee plants begins between April and May. The main factor that causes flowering to occur earlier in low altitude regions is the climate. Plants grow and develop faster at low elevations; the metabolism of plants at low elevations is also faster because of the warm climates.

Another factor that impacts the process of harvesting coffee apart from altitude is the varietal. For example, the Bourbons are precocious, Mauricio told us. They tend to grow and mature faster than other varietals. Also, exposure to the sun causes the maturation process to vary greatly. In low altitude areas, exposure to the sun is greater and more homogeneous, which makes plants grow and develop faster, on the contrary, in high altitude areas the process is slower and less homogeneous. Within the farms themselves, there can be cases where some areas have a faster maturation of the plants than others, Mauricio tells us, especially in the hollows of the farms, the process tends to be slower, and in the "jewels" of the farms, that would be the summits, the process tends to be faster.

At this moment, the coffee in the high altitude areas has already started being harvested, and in regions like Huehuetenango there’s a huge problem due to the lack of cutters in this harvest, but that’s a topic that we will discuss with Mauricio and other producers in the next blog!

By: Andres Ranero

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