Letters from Lüna On the meaning of terroir and bright and juicy arrivals. 

Last week when we were getting ready to send out the monthly coffee subscriptions, I wrote a letter that touched on the idea of terroir. Taste of place is something that's most often talked about in wine, but other foods in agriculture, including coffee, have been studied too. It's this idea of a fixed set of characteristics that make up a distinct terroir that more and more people are rightly questioning. I was thinking instead, of a "living terroir' - The idea of shifting and rising to meet the realities of a changing soil and climate to create something new - but still very much representing the place where it was created.


It's happening in wine and it's, of course, happening in coffee too. Thankfully there is a response to this reality with variety trials and breeding programs, with an emphasis on cultivars and hybrids that stand a likelihood of thriving in these changing circumstances.


What does this all mean? Is terroir becoming irrelevant? I don't think so, on the contrary, all this shifting is forcing us to listen to the earth more intently than we have in a long time. It's now coming out what many of us had intuitively known all along - soil health is the immune support of a plant and will take care of it better than any fungicide could. It also means remixing the techniques and traditions held around cultivating and processing something like coffee. It could mean different results in the cup, sure, but certainly still of the same place. Astrid, for example, does this with her IHCAFE90 Catimor hybrid to maximize flavour.

Here's a bit from that letter:

"IHCAFE90 (Bright Berry) is a delicious take on yet another hybrid (this time a cross of Caturra and Timor Hybrid). Here's the curiosity: This a cultivar that World Coffee Research expressly says is low quality in higher altitudes, and yet...well, taste it! Tell us what you think. 

Astrid works intelligently with this variety with a wisdom beyond her 25 years, paying attention to plant nutrition, and augmenting the flavour through processing.

What she does allows the fruit flavour to show well in the cup. This is a coffee that defies what's expected, and we love that. You'll see too that the beans look like they got a little more colour - There's more sugar to work with due to processing and you'll find the fruit acids very much present."

We really want to meet Astrid soon and ask how she came to the decisions she made (and there are loads of decisions to be made!).

So yeah, something to think about - Living terroir. Rolling with the punches. Talented growers who are reviving and remixing and making something delicious, albeit untraditional. Is it still honouring terroir to change technique when the ingredients (soil, climate, varieties) are changing too? I'm going to argue for yes eventually - but it will take some time to see how it all settles.   

chat soon (actually, though, you can just hit reply anytime) and make sure you have delightful coffee in your life this summer <3

-Laura & Nate

On Rotation Bright Berry – Astrid Guzman from Marcala, Honduras

There is no soaking step, so there is inevitably tiny bits of mucilage left on the seeds for the drying process. This reminds us of a white honey process.

Astrid does quite possibly the most thorough sorting job at this stage that we’d ever experienced. In the cup, all this effort translates to a coffee that is deeply sweet and raspberry bright.
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