What is Terroir® Coffee?

3 minutes
Advanced Knowledge

What is Terroir® Coffee?

Put most simply, terroir, pronounced like reservoir, is a taste of “place.” It is a unique French term (Terre – earth) reflecting reverence for the land and traditionally applied to wine – and now to many agricultural products such as olive oil, cheeses, liquors, and honey. A food or drink that has terroir cannot be reproduced anywhere else; it bears the stamp of soil, microclimate, and micro-organisms unique to where the product is grown. The Caturra coffee variety grown in Central America, for instance, can vary subtly in its expression of terroir from farm to farm but is dramatically different, with a unique, sweet mint (not menthol) note when grown in certain places in Colombia. Not all locations produce coffees or wines of distinction – where terroir is part of the expression. A place must be special for the plant to begin with.

Terroir is subtle and contributes to a product’s gustatory and aromatic complexity; but it can be overpowered by strong flavors added by other means. In the case of coffee terroir is affected by and can even be trounced by the variety of plant, the way the bean is removed from the fruit and dried, by the way the coffee is stored and shipped, by how it is roasted and how it is brewed. Bad weather or heavy-handed treatment can result in generic notes devoid of terroir no matter how extraordinary the location.

Why do some of our labels say Terroir® Coffee/Espresso and others not?

The Terroir® Coffee or Terroir® Espresso label applies to single source coffees (farms, cooperatives…) only. We treat these coffees specially, from export to storage before roasting to guarantee farm-fresh expressions of terroir – the first thing lost when green (raw) coffee ages. We vacuum seal green coffee and then freeze until ready for roasting. This stops the aging process in its tracks, allowing great vintages to outlast their seasonality in all their glory – great for the farmer and for the consumer!