In 2001, Gaskell, farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, established transplants and discovered that the sub-tropical plants could thrive in the Golden State. He recruited Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics to help with trials, hoping coffee could be a valuable niche crop to help sustain small farms.
Ruskey started growing coffee in 2002 on his Santa Barbara, Calif., farm and quickly became a passionate coffee farmer.
“We learned that we had the ability to grow very good coffee with a very unique flavor,” Ruskey explains. “There is a misconception that you can’t grow coffee outside the Tropic of Cancer.”
The traditional method of planting coffee is to place 20 seeds in each hole at the beginning of the rainy season. This method loses about 50% of the seeds’ potential, as about half fail to sprout. A more effective method of growing coffee, used in Brazil, is to raise seedlings in nurseries that are then planted outside at six to twelve months.
Coffee is often intercropped with food crops, such as corn, beans, or rice during the first few years of cultivation as farmers become familiar with its requirements. Coffee plants grow within a defined area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, termed the bean belt or coffee belt.
There are also political/monopoly reasons – it’s huge business, people have much to lose.
Then there is the flavour – yes, that man can grow his coffee on his farm but the difference in flavour of good and poor coffee is quite marked – every coffee drinker knows this and many go to great lengths to have only the best beans.
Coffee plants are very finicky about where they’ll grow best. The tastiest beans come from plants that are not only cultivated in warm, humid tropical environments, but in terrain that sits at high elevations — ideally 1,300 to 1,400 meters above sea level, Sam Lewontin, a KRUPS ambassador, champion barista, and expert on all things coffee told Tech Insider.
The warm days and cold nights typical of this mountainous yet tropical environment “shock” the natural chemicals — organic acids, aromatic compounds, and sugars — that make coffee taste delicious into the bean. That delectable blend of flavors then gets released into your cup when you brew.
The magical combination of heat, humidity, rainfall, elevation, and soil quality affects the bean so precisely that one plant could have a radically different taste from another plant grown just a few feet away.