I'm so excited for you to join me in this discussion about terroir. Terroir comes from latin, for terra - soil. Also translated as land, or “taste of the land”.
Terroir is predominantly a wine concept, so why are we even talking about it in reference to coffee?
If you’ve listened to other episodes, you’ll know that there are certain concepts that the coffee industry likes to borrow from the wine industry. We’ve talked about some of the really bad ones, like using wine or beer tanks to ferment coffee or how a Q grader is not like a sommelier.
From the outside we see the concept used in wine to justify the high prices of a French wine, perhaps we associate it with valuing the land, a sense of place. We know it’s connected to soil, so maybe we assume that terroir also has to do with soil health.
This makes terroir seem like it would be a positive concept to adopt.
I see how tempting it is to think that coffee could benefit from adopting this way of speaking about coffee farms and how it can help sell the coffee beverages at higher prices. Also, it sounds so romantic, and the specialty coffee industry loves romance.
But similar to my argument about “anaerobic fermentation”, terroir faces a similar problem- the word is vaguely understood at best, and then repeated and made familiar by sheer repetition, not by true understanding.
Many of us have a hard time defining this word if we are asked.
I have made this episode to give you a background into the origins of the word so that before we dive head first into regular use in the coffee industry, we have a better understanding of what it means.
While most student of winemaking take terroir for granted, as a given, I was lucky that one of my UC Davis professors challenged the idea. The historical origins are from the book Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing by Mark A Matthews. I highly recommend this book for those wanting to go deeper after today's episode.
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