Finca El Bosque Las Pilas Plot, Nicaragua
Elevation is the altitude above sea level at which the coffee is grown. The elevation is a good signifier for what you might expect in the coffee in terms of complexity. Put simply, coffee grown at higher altitudes will generally have higher levels of complexity than those grown at lower altitudes. With lower altitude coffees you might expect more nutty, chocolate or earthy notes, whereas higher grown coffee will have brighter acidity and more complexity - expect more floral notes and more layers on the palate.
It is difficult to understand exactly how much of the profile of a coffee is due to the variety of coffee used simply due to it being incredibly difficult to isolate variety from other aspects of roast or terroir. For example, it is widely accepted that varieties such as SL28, SL34 and Ruiru 11 are exceptionally floral coffees, however given that "floral" will often be a descriptor of Kenyan coffees (where these varieties are most commonly grown) it's tricky to isolate the impact of terroir vs the the impact of variety on producing that flavour note.
Varieties are usually chosen by farmers for economic reasons. You'll see varieties such as Bourbon or Caturra quite often because they're high-yield varieties, thus producing more coffee per hectare than others. Most producers around the world are dependant on coffee for their livelihoods, so picking varieties for yield or pest-resistance tends to trump varieties that might produce a superior cup, but lower yield.
SCA Cupping Score
The SCA cupping score is how the coffee industry rates a given coffee. Coffees are assessed and scored between 1 and 100 based on 10 different principles of fragrance/aroma, flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body, uniformity, balance, cleanliness of cup, sweetness & an overall score. Specialty coffee is any coffee that scores 80 points or above, with anything above 95 being exceedingly special.
For us to call ourselves a specialty coffee roaster we only source coffees over 80 points and usually source coffees between 84 and 88 points. Coffees in this range are exceptional - this range is within the top 5% of coffees produced in the world!
Something to keep in mind is that if a coffee scores 82, it's still going to be fantastic - so don't discount it based on its score. When you get into the 90's you'll be tasting some truly special coffees, but you'll certainly be paying for it with many 90+ coffees easily costing over £100/kg.