Last week when we were getting ready to send out the monthly coffee subscriptions, I wrote a letter that touched on the idea of terroir. Taste of place is something that's most often talked about in wine, but other foods in agriculture, including coffee, have been studied too. It's this idea of a fixed set of characteristics that make up a distinct terroir that more and more people are rightly questioning. I was thinking instead, of a "living terroir' - The idea of shifting and rising to meet the realities of a changing soil and climate to create something new - but still very much representing the place where it was created.
It's happening in wine and it's, of course, happening in coffee too. Thankfully there is a response to this reality with variety trials and breeding programs, with an emphasis on cultivars and hybrids that stand a likelihood of thriving in these changing circumstances.
What does this all mean? Is terroir becoming irrelevant? I don't think so, on the contrary, all this shifting is forcing us to listen to the earth more intently than we have in a long time. It's now coming out what many of us had intuitively known all along - soil health is the immune support of a plant and will take care of it better than any fungicide could. It also means remixing the techniques and traditions held around cultivating and processing something like coffee. It could mean different results in the cup, sure, but certainly still of the same place. Astrid, for example, does this with her IHCAFE90 Catimor hybrid to maximize flavour.