Coffee Taster's Guide: Using the lingo

Coffee Taster's Guide: Using the lingo

Posted by Rebecca Saar on 4th Apr 2014

When you go coffee tasting, fellow tasters and the coffee company staff may use some terms you're not familiar with. To sound like you know what you're talking about I'm starting a coffee guide. Here's the first couple terms you should know:

Terrior is the characteristics that geography, elevation and climate empart on an agricultural product like coffee. Similar to wine, terrior plays a significant role in the aromas and tastes of the cup of coffee you bring to your lips. From Sumatra to Ethiopia to New Guinea to Guatemala, each region is known for a distinct aromatic and taste profile. Even within a country, terrior can have a significant impact. In Guatemala, for example, there are EIGHT Varietal Regions with distinct elevations and microclimates that impact a cup's profile.

Typically, the best coffees (depending on region) are grown above 4000 or 5000 feet elevation.Changes in soil and sun exposure (shade grown or not, incline and direction of the slope) can also create slight variations even from one hectare to the next.


Map of coffee growing regions

Variety: There are numerous varieties, or cultivars, of coffee. Arabica and Robusta are the two main species of coffee. Robusta is ubiquitus with the grocery store can of coffee, grown for its hardiness and typically has higher caffeine content. Typically, more complex, richer coffees come from the Arabica species. A great diagram of the coffee family tree can be found here.

coffee growing countries of the world

Differences in processing also imparts certain characteristics. For example, dry processed coffee leaves the fruit on the coffee seed during the drying process imparting a more fruity flavor to the coffee than wet processed, or washed, coffee where the fruit is removed prior to the drying process.