Old-fashioned alternative to coffee
You've never heard of coffee cultivation in South Tyrol? No wonder – the South Tyrolean climate may be mild, but it is not suitable for growing “real” coffee (cafea). What does grow in Altrei in South Tyrol's south (and nowhere else as well) is the lupin species with the beautiful botanical name Lupinus pilosus Murr. The seeds of this blue flower are used to make Altreier coffee or (in dialect) Voltruier coffee, a local speciality and a delicious coffee substitute.
Real woman power
In the past, “real” coffee beans were a luxury that not everyone could afford. In order to be able to enjoy a coffee-like drink, a cheaper substitute coffee was made from local plants such as barley, chicory, figs or even lupins. Since the end of the 19th century, lupins have been cultivated in Altrei, in the heart of the Trudner Horn Nature Park, where they thrive particularly well. Lupinus pilosus Murr almost disappeared from Altrei again. Fortunately, this did not happen, and the credit for this goes to two women in particular: the agronomist Andrea Heistinger and the farmer Theresia Werth. As part of her dissertation in 1999, Andrea Heistinger came into contact with the elderly farmer Theresia Werth, who still had the last seeds of the endangered lupin species. The agricultural scientist initiated a project and the Altreier Lupin Coffee Growers Association was founded, which is still very active today.
Sowing and harvesting
Lupinus pilosus Murr is sown at the end of winter, around mid-March. The plants can grow up to 120 cm tall. They like sandy and well-drained soil. With their blue inflorescences and silvery, hairy, finger-shaped leaves, they are a magnificent sight. Lupins belong to the legume family. The elongated brown pods with delicate down contain 2 to 4 seeds each.
As soon as the first seeds are ripe (from around the end of August), they are harvested and dried. They are then roasted and ground – just like “real” coffee. The ground powder is infused with hot water and the delicious coffee alternative is ready. It contains no caffeine, but is rich in protein and important fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6) and has a wonderful hazelnut flavour.
The seeds of the lupin are not only used to make coffee substitutes, but are also used in chocolate, beer and schnapps. The blue flowers flavour tea and cheese. The region's chefs also bring out the aromatic flavour of the local lupin species in various dishes. At the pumpkin farm in Guggal, for example, you can enjoy a dessert variation with Altreier coffee.
Have you got a taste for it and want to know what this coffee alternative tastes like? You can buy the products made with the special lupin in the Altreier branch of the Famiglia Cooperativa Cavalese or order them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Since December 2022, Altreier Lupine has also been a Slow Food Italia Presìdi!