Look no further than Terroir Coffee Company, a small Massachusetts roaster trying to to make some big changes in the coffee industry. We recently had the privilege of attending a coffee seminar with the company's founder, George Howell, and were wooed by such words as "small growers," "sustainable," and "artisan crafted."
George Howell is something of a superstar in the coffee world. He started his career with a company called Coffee Connections, well loved in Boston throughout the 70's and 80's.
When that company sold to Starbucks in 1994, Howell went on to work for the United Nations and developed the Cup of Excellence, an initiative to support a sustainable economic structure for small coffee growers.
Terroir Coffee Company is the latest incarnation of Howell's coffee adventure. With Terroir, Howell is working to bring the same level of care and craftsmanship to the coffee world that has long been a part of the wine world.
He insists on a high level of quality at each stage of the coffee process, not just roasting. No amount or quality of roasting will ever produce a fine coffee if the beans haven't first been grown, harvests, processed, or stored properly.
And yes, he speaks of terroir, that lyrical term meaning the essence of the land where something is grown. When Howell talks about "single-origin" coffees, he doesn't mean beans from one country. He means beans from one farm.
He compares a single-origin coffee to the wines of Bordeaux -- you would never think of blending the grapes from these regions with those from other regions, and you shouldn't blend coffee beans either.
For this level of quality, the prices for a bag of Terroir coffee is incredibly reasonable. A 12 ounce bag ranges from $10 to $20--about as much as we'd pay for a bottle of wine, truthfully.
• To order some beans of your own, visit the company website: Terroir Coffee Company.
Their website is also an excellent resource on coffee growing, production, and global issues.
Is it time we elevated our coffee to the status of our wine? What do you think?
(Image Courtesy of Terroir Coffee Company)