Growing conditions directly correlated to flavors in the cup?

Hi All!

I have been following the competition circuit and have noticed in many barista and brewers cup presentations the competitor will mention something like: “The volcanic soil this coffee is grown in is rich with organic matter which results in a malic acidity.” OR “Because this coffee was exposed to rainfall on every third Tuesday of the month you will taste apricot.”

Okay so that second one was a bit hyperbolic, but what I don’t understand is how do they know for a fact it was the soil that attributed to the coffee’s acidity and not just the varietal/altitude combo? I understand that terroir is valid and is why we have such a vast array in flavor cup to cup, but how do we know exactly what elements of a particular coffee’s growing conditions contribute to specific flavors in that coffee? Are there any scientific resources for this type of information?

Thanks for any in site!

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I love this statement and the question you present Becca. I won’t make it to a coffee producing region in the next year (and even if I did, would it be long enough to evaluate all the variables associated with varietal, elevation, soil enrichment or lack therof, processing (which in my brief understanding is a major flavor and texture influencer) and while we’re at it why not toss in little climate change and the associated issues of a worn out Mother Earth.

Taste, how much of it can actually be quantified and is it positively consistent or can it be changed via processing? Hope you don’t mind me adding to your comment/ question, I literally entertained this thought yesterday!

This is an interesting question and perhaps a controversial one. Supposedly even wine experts have failed blind taste tests between high quality and cheap wines (source).

Earth and rainfall no doubt do produce differences in the bean. To the extent that they are noticeable, I am sure you can taste the soil. Differences in rainfall? I’m also not sure. I also agree that it’s hard to isolate these things and of course, there’s no way to verify.

In fact if I were in a coffee tasting and everyone else tasted apricot, I would be inclined to say I tasted it, too.

It would be great to learn more about coffee tasting and these factors in general.