Q&A Session 17: Nate and Laura from LÜNA.
My first experience with LÜNA was when they started popping up on random Instagram feeds. I loved the look of the bags so I did a bit of digging and found out that one of the owners was Nate, who I’d met at Aubade a while back. “He’s a nice chap”, I thought, so I got hold of a bag of his ‘Disco Marmalade’ and was immediately amazed and the quality of the debut roast. Since then LÜNA has started a steady expansion into the Canadian market, putting out some utterly incredible light and sweet drinks as well as bomb shelling us all with the news that the other 50% of LÜNA was none other than local coffee Q-grader and superstar, Laura Perry.
Just kidding, we all totally knew you were involved, Laura!
Who are you and where are you from?
Nate is originally from Hamilton, Ontario, and Laura is from Ottawa. We both decided to move to Vancouver for various reasons – For Nate it was to study at UBC, and eventually Emily Carr, where he completed his Art Degree. Nate stayed in Vancouver for coffee, working as a barista at Elysian, and then Revolver, and once again working for Elysian, this time leading the roasting and cold brew programs. For Laura it was because 49th Parallel had asked her to relocate to become their Green Coffee Buyer and direct their sourcing program – which she proudly built and maintained for half a decade.
Tell us a little about LÜNA and what you do?
LÜNA is a (very) new small roaster in Vancouver, BC. The main idea behind LÜNA is to make light, bright, delightful coffees more accessible in the local market (and beyond). We’re a tiny but mighty team of two, and we roast in a shared space (Thanks Agro!) at night. For the moment, we’ve got a webshop up and running, and our coffees can be found in a few cafes around Vancouver, and in a few other dedicated cafes throughout the rest of Canada.
What goes into your bean selection?
From the onset, LÜNA’s MO is to carefully curate a coffee menu with a focus on transparent supply chains and only coffees that are consistently delicious. Laura is lucky to have built up a solid network of friends over the years, around the world who we are thankful to be working within a capacity that’s more by proxy (for now).
The idea with our menu is to build it up slowly and carefully, with intention. We don’t want a revolving door of coffees that we may not have had the opportunity to vet. For both of us, we feel it’s critical to understand the implications of putting our dollars into a supply chain we might regret later on. So we take our time.
We’re in a unique position as a small roaster, where we have the opportunity to work with those through our supply chains who we trust, but we also have a neat opportunity to work with producers who are perhaps new to producing higher end coffee with the help of our existing networks. Ask us anything!
Do you have any exciting products or announcements coming up?
Well, we just received fresh, 2018 crop Ethiopia Nano Challa (a gorgeous cooperative with a notable backstory – expect to see that one released as soon as next month. Other than that, as of last week, you can find LÜNA in these spots other than our webshop:
Vancouver: Aubade, Birds and the Beets, Small Victory, & Nemesis.
Other Places in BC: Hey Happy in Victoria, & Ratio Coffee in Vernon
Saskatchewan: Vector Coffee in Saskatoon
Ontario: Strange Love in Toronto, & Show and Tell in Kitchener
Quebec: Cordova (Saint Henri in Montreal)
Also, if you want to see us in person, we intend to pop up regularly through the summer on Sunday’s at The Juice Truck (Outside their 5th and Ontario location) with our dear friends Annabelle and Joey at Companion Bread (@companionbread_yvr on Instagram). Their focus is on heirloom, organic grains from traceable supply chains, and they make this pastry called a morning bun.
It’s ridiculous how good it is. If you want to know when our next pop-up will be, your best bet is to get on our newsletter at enjoylunacoffee.com or follow us on Instagram @enjoylunacoffee.
You were recently included in the finals of the SCA Design Lab awards. Tell us about how you design your amazing packaging.
Ultimately, we had 4 goals for our packaging:
1. Reflect the vision and values of LÜNA.
2. Inclusive and delightful bag copy
3. Unite cohesive design with flavour
4. Completely home compostable, evoking beautiful design without compromise.
Let’s unpack a couple of those ideas:
Inclusive and delightful bag copy
In working in coffee retail for the bulk of the past decade, we’re more than aware of how most people struggle to make purchasing decisions when buying bags of coffees for home. Using colour is one great communication tool that has been successfully employed by most of the best coffee companies, but for the most part, list-heavy origin data remains the main information available, along with a list of three descriptive flavour notes, which can sometimes be confusing if not cryptic for customers.
The goal with the bag design is to encourage those new to LÜNA to succeed in finding the coffee for them, without relying on insider professional coffee knowledge. The largest piece of text on the bag is a naming structure – A flavour and a feeling. We wanted to take care of our fellow coffee nerds as well, so included beside the name of the coffee (Jelly Donut, Disco Marmalade etc) there is essential origin information written in a thoughtful sentence based format that peels back the curtain on the story of that coffee. It is our conviction that light and bright coffees are where it’s at! We love this style of roasting and celebrating beautiful coffees. So with all that in mind, we aim to capture and delight our target audience by making sure that whether it’s someone who is just getting into lighter coffees, or a seasoned nerd – that both feel understood and inspired.
Unite cohesive design with flavour
We wanted edge to edge artwork on the front of the bags, with new considered imagery for each coffee so we could convey its unique qualities. We wanted the image to take front and center and do much of the talking – stylistically colourful and playful, but also interesting with depth and complexity – pictures you could look at for awhile, like ‘album art’ we could display as an archive of the coffees we’ve had. For us, the names and images don’t replace or de-emphasize the importance of the provenance of the coffee, but rather, they are strengthened
by the alignment of that coffee with a particular design, to give it a greater sense of its uniqueness, and to convey the anticipated flavour experience of the coffee within.
Just as great coffees are immersive sensory experiences, we wanted to let that immersive quality begin with the packaging itself.
Taking inspiration from various craft breweries, many of whom have in-house art direction, LÜNA is leveraging its in-house capabilities to reimagine what a retail coffee experience can look like if you could design a bag with only one specific coffee and flavour experience in mind.
We really had fun with the design submission process for Design Lab at SCA Expo, and to be chosen as a finalist was such amazing news!
What coffee have you most recommended to other people?
Well, we’re really stoked on the coffees we are roasting (it would be weird if we weren’t!), but if you like the types of coffees we are sourcing and roasting, we think these roasters are crushing it: Koppi in Helsingborg, Sweden; Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, Norway; Five Elephant in Berlin, Germany.
Laura, you recently released a podcast where you chat to interesting people in central/south America who are in the coffee industry. Are we going to see any more episodes released soon?
I’d love to do a podcast again! The podcasts were compiled for 49th Parallel actually, and it was a project I’m proud of. Getting rich content together for that sort of topic is what I think the industry needs more of. Stay tuned.
Nate, you’ve run a couple of Aubade takeovers, where you run the shop for a day. Do you think when your beard grows longer than Eldric’s you’ll fully “hostile take-over” the shop?
LOL. No-one could overtake Eldric.
However, I will say this about those opportunities. Eldric has been extremely supportive and generous in opening up his space for “residencies” which I’ve participated in twice, once before we knew what would become LÜNA and once as LÜNA, both were incredible experiences for me to have the opportunity to have complete ownership over the entire experience. In both cases, I roasted the coffee and dialled in the recipe to best represent how I wanted it to be experienced, and then I had the opportunity to serve it to people and engage with those people in a way that I don’t often have the chance to do as a roaster. Connecting with people and hearing their thoughts about the coffees is one of the most rewarding parts of what we do.
Back to LÜNA – are you guys planning on roasting for espresso machines any time soon.
Well, the short answer is we are already doing that – People have been having a really good time with our coffees with all brewing methods. We’ve come to the conclusion over our years in the industry that a good coffee is a good coffee, and it should shine no matter how you brew it.
Our philosophy around the idea of roasting darker or differently for espresso is that it would only degrade the flavour potential – So why would we do that?
Our perspective on roasting is we are trying to keep the coffees as sweet and vibrant as they can be, so we are evaluating our production roasts based on expression of flavour relative to its provenance. So we are simply trying to maximize deliciousness.
If you could pick one person dead or alive, real or fictional, to have coffee with, who would it be and why?
Nate: I would have coffee with my grandfather. Some of my earliest memories of coffee (as a beverage, but most significantly as a social conduit) revolve around him and his interactions with other customers and the people serving us at various cafes (cafe is perhaps a generous term, think Tim Hortons and mom and pop shops of the 90’s). His endearing personality was infectious and he always made sure to tell whoever he ran into (strangers) about what was happening in his life, his grandson, etc. Since he never had the chance to have coffee I roasted, it would be really meaningful to me, and I think he would find it touching how much I attribute our time together and how it relates to me ending up in coffee.
Laura: I would have coffee with Ilse Crawford. She is an incredible British designer who worked on the Fogo Island Inn, Ett Hem, a Stockholm Hotel among many other stunning and sensual places full of feeling. Her philosophy is one I want to keep at the forefront as Nate and I continue to dream of what LÜNA’s future roasting space might look and feel like. Ilse says “When I look at making spaces, I don’t just look at the visual. I’m much more interested in the sensory thing, in thinking about it from the human context, the primal perspective, the thing that touches you.” The stark contrast and rejection of all the cold, postmodernist spaces are what I love about her ideas around design. It’s not how it looks, it’s how it makes you feel. I’d love to pick her brain.
Thanks to Laura and Nate for chatting with me today. If you want to stay in the loop with their future shenanigans you can visit their website here (don’t’ forget to signup for their amazing newsletter), visit them on Instagram or check them out on Medium.