Himalayan Growing Conditions
Unique Coffee Growing Conditions in the Himalayas
The majestic Himalayas are special and that’s common knowledge. But a lesser-known fact is that the Himalayan region is a very special place even when it comes to coffee. With ample shaded hills, mountainous regions, fresh snow-melt waters, as well as optimal amounts of sunshine and rainfall, it has ideal coffee growing conditions. The region’s unique microclimate allows farmers to grow exceptional, high-altitude coffee at elevations lower than in most other coffee growing regions around the world. If you love aromatic coffees that have distinct and complex flavors, then you will love high-altitude coffee from Nepal!
The altitude coffee is grown at is incredibly important as it affects quality, aroma, and taste. The temperature, water and oxygen variations that exist at these higher elevations all play a significant role in the life of a coffee plant, the coffee cherries it produces and, ultimately, the coffee beans themselves.
At higher altitudes, the cooler temperatures significantly slow the growth of the coffee plant. This allows the plant to dedicate more energy and sugar to its coffee cherries, resulting in sweeter and more flavorful cherries.
Water in the soil drains faster at higher elevations. Consequently, the coffee cherries are less watered down and have more concentrated flavors. If coffee plants sit for too long in moist, soggy soil, the roots take in extra water and the plant stores it in the coffee cherries.
Another fact when it comes to higher altitudes is there is less oxygen in the atmosphere. For coffee plants, this means they grow slowly, yielding richer and more densely-flavored coffee cherries.
The ideal altitude for growing high-elevation coffee is between 4,000 feet to 6,000 feet above sea level. However, unlike other coffee growing countries, Nepal grows some of the northernmost coffee in the world (2,000 miles North of the equator) and its average altitude is an unbelievable 10,711 feet above sea level. Because of that, even at altitudes of 2,000 feet, the microclimate in the region resembles high-altitude regions in other coffee growing countries. Farmers in the Himalayas can grow exceptional coffee just below the frost line without having to go as high as is necessary in most other coffee growing regions.
Weather in Nepal
Nepal has four distinct seasons, including a monsoon season between June and August, when it rains almost daily for three months. The average annual rainfall in Nepal is 63 inches. Its warmest months are May to August; the coolest months are December to February. Temperatures range from 66-95°F in the warmer seasons, to 36-54°F in the cooler ones.
Coffee Growing Regions
Nepal is approximately the same size as the state of Iowa (roughly 57,000 square miles). There are seven provinces and 77 districts, of which 41 districts currently grow coffee. The largest coffee-producing areas are in the central regions of Nepal, but farmers in the northern and southern regions produce coffee in smaller quantities and in fewer areas.
Some research courtesy of National Tea and Coffee Development Board of Nepal, Scribblers Coffee Co.