George Howell’s Terroir Coffee

Welcome to the Terroir-dome
By JEREMY SAUER  |  June 14, 2006

Coffee drinkers are creatures of habit. Every day we frequent the same Starbucks (or Dunkin’ Donuts or, God forbid, Store 24) blindly slurping our fix from paper mugs with plastic lids. But George Howell, founder of the Coffee Connection and all-around coffee cognoscente, is out to turn our morning cup of joe into a gastronomic experience. Founded in 2004, George Howell’s Terroir Coffee Company, in Acton, is devoted to bringing the coffees of the world to the commuters of New England.

The term “terroir” refers to the effect a specific microclimate — its soil in particular — can have on the flavors of the fruit the area produces. To capture the essence of terrior, Howell and his minions have procured single-region coffees from the world’s most reputable growers.

If Terroir coffees have a signature feature, it’s the subtlety of the roast — a stark contrast to the bitter, nearly burnt coffees favored by many shops. Noel Vega, listed as “master roaster extraordinaire” on the company’s Web site, prefers lighter roasts that allows the coffee’s character to evolve on the palate. But that’s not to say the coffees don’t have backbone. For proof, look no further than the Aged Sumatra Mandheling, Vintage 2002 ($13.95/12 ounces), from the island’s Lintong region. Labeled as a “full-flavor roast,” its mild body and low acidity support a surprisingly masculine aroma, chock full of leather and tobacco notes balanced by the sweet tinge of butterscotch.

With beans hailing from Nicaragua to Rwanda, George Howell’s Terroir Coffee Company is bringing obscure coffee to the market. But is the appeal of Terroir enough to make the average Starbucks devotee change his or her workday routine? It should be. After all, nothing beats a cup of Yirgacheffe from the Kafursa Cooperative of Ethiopia first thing in the morning.

Whole beans available at area Whole Foods stores; brewed coffee available at Koo Koo Café, 7 Station Street, in Brookline | terroircoffee.com.

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