I used to think coffee is coffee, meaning it didnt really matter where it came from because it all tasted the same. Boy was I wrong! Coffee is a plant that produces cherry-like fruit from which the beans are eventually extracted and distributed. Coffee is grown in approximately 50 countries that span the globe.  So then I assumed, all Kenyan coffees taste the same, or all Guatemalan coffees are the same. Wrong, again. I am learning that coffees from the same country can vary in taste, aroma and body. How? Well, within coffee growing countries lie different regions that can feature varying altitudes and climates, distinctive soil conditions, and even unique coffee processing techniques that have evolved over generations. All these factors contribute to specific flavor profiles for regions, coffee farms, and sometimes a specific flavor profile for an area within a coffee farm. This relationship between coffee flavor and specific origin is referred to as terroir. Terroir (French word for taste of the soil ) is a word that is usually applied to wine, but has been redefined in America to apply to coffee, tea, chocolate and other food products.  The exact definition of terroir according to The French Wine Guide is a group of vineyards(or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine-making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.  According to the Specialty Tea Institute, history, tradition, and even ownership are factors that contribute to the taste of place that terroir connotes.
Interestingly enough an internet search brings up an article from 2006 featured in Imbibe Magazine talking about terroir in relation to coffee titled Tasting the Place. Cant make it to Guatemala? A cup of coffee might be the next best way to get there. It addresses the relationship between taste, body and aroma of coffees and the qualities of the soil, water, climate and conditions under which theyre grown. It goes on to include comments from Peter Giuliano of Counter Culture Coffee and former president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, who explains how he can sample a coffee from Ethiopia Yirgacheffee region, and be transported back to this particular location as the coffee has taken on the bright, cool attributes of that region.  This is terroir!
Terroir can be a bit overwhelming. However, it has certainly helped me realize that coffee is more than just a brown beverage that contains caffeine. Instead, coffee is a complex beverage with a wide variety of possibilities worth exploring.
1. Specialty Tea Institute Level 1 certification manual- http://www.teausa.com/general/star/
2. Imbibe Magazine- http://www.imbibemagazine.com/Coffee-Origins-Coffee-Terroir