Coffee Terroir: Beans Cultivated in Volcanic Soil Yield Surprising, Complex Brews

Volcanic terroir is a unique growing environment that produces highly sought-after coffee beans. This unique blend of mineral-rich, rocky terrain, high altitude, mist-covered peak, and regular heavy rainfall creates a unique flavor profile. The Atlanta-based Volcanica Coffee Company, founded in 2004, imports beans from 40 countries worldwide, focusing on volcanic soil. The company’s main processing methods include washed, natural, and fermented, with anaerobic being a rarer one.

The green beans, not the actual beans but the fruit pip or seed, are processed on-site by growers. Soil type affects the size and character of the beans, but the overall taste is influenced by the processing methods used. Natural processing, where cherries are dried and shrivelled off, lends a bolder flavor with some funk, while fermented beans produce cleaner, more acidic coffee with floral tones.

Soil types can influence the aroma and flavor of coffee, but some soils foster aromatic complexity. Terroir sets the parameters for a coffee’s possible quality and complexity, and fermentation and roasting further develop and fulfill that potential. Volcanic terroir produces smaller, denser beans in environments where high rainfall filters quickly through the porous soil and does not overwater the plants. In drier, more arid environments, like the coffee plantations of Africa, plants grow in clay soils with high water-holding capacities that compensate for lack of rainfall.

Volcanica is working on developing hybrid African varieties that can thrive in their Costa Rican terroir, bringing an African flavor profile to Central American coffees. This approach has made significant progress in coffee production, as it allows for the development of different hybrids of different varietals.

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