Terroir: Chocolate, Oysters, and Other Place-Flavored Foods

Fall 2015, Winter 2016 and Spring 2016 quarters

Taught by

feminist theory, consciousness studies
ecology, botany, plant pathology
geology, earth science, biogeochemistry

"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly engaged, will set off a revolution." – Paul Cezanne

If you crunch on a carrot, savor a cacao nib, or sip a coffee while learning about terroir with a geologist, a permaculturalist, and a cultural theorist, what will you taste? Often associated with wine, terroir is a French word that distinguishes a food that is what it is because of a taste of the place from which it comes. There are complex cultural traditions alongside the scientific factors we will explore for describing the effects of climate, soil, environment, and agricultural practices on our perception of flavor. We'll also explore the combined effects of smell and taste and their expression in terroir in relation to scientific and consumer objectivity. Throughout the year, we will focus on case studies of specific foods to explore terroir from a variety of methodologies and disciplinary perspectives via faculty lectures, readings, seminar, writing, field trips, films, community-based service learning, independent field studies, and an alumni lecture series.

Fall quarter, we’ll focus on the terroir of coffee, chocolate, and wine. We’ll begin with a program retreat and service-learning project at a biodynamic vineyard, during which students will learn about terroir as a special quality of Oregon’s pinot noir grapes. Faculty members will provide an introduction to their disciplines in relation to terroir's expression in coffee, chocolate, and wine through a combination of lectures and tastings (grapes in the case of wine). Students will choose modules in physical geology, permaculture design, or cultural theory. The physical geology module will focus on the broader plate tectonics and volcanic processes. In the permaculture design module, students will study how the landscape properties of a particular place can be modified and combined to create a unique entity. Students in the cultural theory module will explore how terroir is a relation of reciprocity between subject and object using poststructuralist theory infused with gender and colonial critique as well as ethnographic strategies. We will engage the complexity of terroir as perception and history, place and soil.

Winter quarter, we’ll focus on oysters, chocolate, and tea. Students will have the opportunity to travel to to the EcoFarm Conference in Monterey, Calif. Students will again choose a module: permaculture or cultural theory modules as offered in fall or a new module that will focus on soil development processes and the effects of climate change on the terroir of place-flavored foods, including the effects of changes in ocean chemistry on the terroir of oysters.

Spring quarter will begin with the study of terroir's expression in honey, chocolate, and potatoes. Students will gain hands-on horticultural/gardening training at Demeter’s Garden on Evergreen’s farm to facilitate student engagement in agricultural and permaculture fieldwork. During the latter half of the quarter, everyone will complete an independent or small-group, multiweek research project, community-based service-learning experience, or field study, and will share their learning progress via a structured online program forum.

Texts may include: Desert Terroir (Nabhan), The Taste of Place (Trubek), Voodoo Vintners (Cole), The New Taste of Chocolate (Presilla), Sweetness & Power (Mintz), Coffee & Coffeehouses (Hattox), American Terroir (Jacobsen), Puer Tea (Zhang), The Body of the Conquistador (Earle), Bittersweet Journey (Futterman), More than Honey (Imhoof), Neurogastronomy (Shepherd), Dirt (Logan or Montgomery), Consider the Oyster (Fisher).

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

agriculture, business, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning (F), Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online (W), Hybrid Online Learning 25 - 49% Delivered Online (S)

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$175 in fall, $800 in winter, and $100 in spring for overnight field trips.

Special Expenses

Student expenses for field study during spring quarter will vary based on individual student field study design.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Variable Credit Options

Variable credit options will be available for students seeking language study outside the program to support their case study project or fieldwork within the program.

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 69


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10142
So - Sr (16 credits): 10145

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20075
So - Sr (16 credits): 20076
(1-16 credits): 20077

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30045
So - Sr (16 credits): 30046
(1-16 credits): 30047

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.

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