"Ah, yes, the subtle tannic notes tell me this is an early Medellin."
September 12, 2008 3:56 PM   Subscribe

So, does cocaine have terroir?

Wine and cigars and other such indulgences are said to have terroir-- subtle differences in flavors, aroma, etc. brought on by soil type, climates, topographies, whatever.

What about coke? Is it possible to tell a nice Colombian from an equivalent Bolivian, or what have you?

(This came up in a friend of mine's extremely weird dream last night, and now I'm curious. I'm not going to run around becoming the Snorty Traveler or something.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Given that cocaine is first chemically processed and then cut with whatever the hell's close at hand, I'm going to say no.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:06 PM on September 12, 2008

Response by poster: Inspector Gadget: yeah, there's been a few jokes about "ah, and the talcum... Johnson & Johnson" in my peer group since the guy had the dream.

I lack experience in these matters-- although I'm pretty sure your answer has a lot of merit to it-- so I figured I'd come here and see if anyone's brother's roommate's friends knew.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:10 PM on September 12, 2008

I'd say if it did, you wouldn't really be able to detect it. The huge difference between coke and pot, cigars and wine is that they activate the sense of taste and smell. Cocaine deadens it.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:21 PM on September 12, 2008

I've never done cocaine but just about every cocaine movie I've ever seen shows the mobster testing a bump off the end of a knife, shuddering, and saying, "Oh, that's pure."

According to the US government, average cocaine purity has fallen recently to about 53%. That's not very pure, IMO, as far as being able to distinctly sense qualities goes...

Also, I remember hearing a piece either on CBC or NPR about how terroir is hotly debated. While you could argue that different strains of weed are different, is it really the soil or genetics or what? I'm sorry I can't dig up the article but I remember the guest interviewed laughing about people claiming that French wines' minerals flavor the wine. I wouldn't be surprised if terroir wasn't a marketing thing.

Kind of a nit-picky answer, I guess, but I think terroir is a loaded term and cocaine, which is ingested in small quantities and a relatively impure substance, would probably be pretty difficult to gauge in terms of flavor or aroma to begin with, let alone flavor and aroma as derived specifically from, "soil, climate, topography, whatever."
posted by metajc at 4:25 PM on September 12, 2008

Best answer: I saw a documentary on cocaine production once and they purified it with fantastic substances like acetone and gasoline. So while it may get cut with a variety of substances, the processing probably removes any possible "terroir". It's more like sugar than wine.
posted by GuyZero at 4:28 PM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Cigars, wine, and chocolate for lack of a better term are somewhat natural. Processed drugs are just that: processed. Coke is rated on its potency, nothing else.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:34 PM on September 12, 2008

no. if you ever do notice a difference in taste, it's because someone sold you washing powder.
posted by krautland at 4:41 PM on September 12, 2008

It's too refined, as others have noted.
posted by fixedgear at 5:24 PM on September 12, 2008

Note also the gangster tasters are measuring the coke by how numb it makes their tounges feel.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:51 PM on September 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, no chance... cocaine is ideally chemically homogenous - hence the diagram on the wiki entry :-)

A truly pure chemical is indistinguishable from any other samples of said chemical (by chemical means) - that's a tautology. So any differences in feel or taste would come from contaminants.

That said, you could chew raw coca leaves, and I'm sure they'd have subtly different tastes (numbing effects feel, but not taste).
posted by phrontist at 8:04 PM on September 12, 2008

Best answer: Back before the war on drugs cocaine you sniff was made by families using traditional techniques that resulted in different appearance, Peruvian flake, Bolivian rock, this is before the cut is added. IIRC flake was preferred because it didn't sting the nose or vein as much. Juan Valdez aside, real folk made cocaine had subtle but distinct differences like cognac .
posted by hortense at 9:22 PM on September 12, 2008

If it does have terroir, it's from an impurity, and therefore undesirable.
posted by exogenous at 10:00 PM on September 12, 2008

Not really, its all about the purity. the less chemicals, the better it is.
posted by docmccoy at 11:05 PM on September 12, 2008

(i wasnt commenting on exogenous, i was answering your question. )
posted by docmccoy at 11:07 PM on September 12, 2008

Terroir, to me, implies a kind of flavor. Cigars, wine chocolate, and yes, marijuana too, all pass over the tongue and have particular combinations of flavors that indicate not only the quality of cultivation, but the region where the component plants were raised. The only thing you will ever taste with cocaine is a hint of bitterness in the throat and the back of your tongue right before you become Captain Awesome of the Universe. If you do taste "hints" of anything, it will be things like acetone, talc and bathroom sink. The subtle differences will be in the way the drug affects you, and will be more an indicator of purity and process than of anything regional.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:46 AM on September 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be surprised if terroir wasn't a marketing thing.

It's not. I don't have a refined enough palate to taste what valley a given wine came from, but there are people who do.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:53 AM on September 13, 2008

Yes. But you must smoke it to taste the differences.
posted by telstar at 2:51 AM on September 13, 2008

google "cocaine processing" and you'll see that it is made with kerosene, methly alcohol and about five other chemcials you would not want to ever put in your body. Any sort of distinctness that was in the original bush would surely be gone.

As noted by the other posters, then there is always what it was cut with which would further hide anything distinct.

I suppose whoevers butt it was smuggled in might give it a unique smell though.
posted by monkeydluffy at 4:36 AM on September 13, 2008

An old friend of mine, in his cokehead days, claimed to be able to determine the purity/how much it had been stepped on by the smell. Apparently, the closer it was to the original source, the more you could detect the faint smell of kerosene, which is used to extract the alkaloids from the coca leaves. He could also sometimes determine what it was cut with, although I'm not sure how.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:00 AM on September 13, 2008

So late to this thread, but cocaine is a local anesthetic, as alluded to above (it blocks Na+ channels, much like novacaine). So, as Ironmouth noted, it numbs the tongue and therefore gustation and olfaction are not notable elements in the experience, unlike wine and cigars.

When you see the crime films where the detective touches the cocaine and puts it on his/her tongue, then declares, "It's coke!" - that's due to the Na+ channel blocking = numbing. If you block sodium channels, it prevents pain (or other sensory information) from being transmitted to the brain, which is where "feeling" happens.

Sorry to dork out. Oh, and lidocaine, benzocaine - all the "caines" are local anesthetics. Happy dreaming to your friend.
posted by Punctual at 5:07 PM on September 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

If it does have terroir, it's from an impurity, and therefore undesirable.
posted by exogenous at 1:00 AM on September 13

Not really, its all about the purity. the less chemicals, the better it is.
posted by docmccoy at 2:05 AM on September 13

Huh? I just said impurities that cause terroir were undesirable.
posted by exogenous at 5:55 AM on September 15, 2008

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