AS THEFLIES


The Los Niños Experiments

Los Ninos Experiments

Irving Farm’s relationship with El Salvador’s Finca Talnamica and the Ortiz Herrera family has developed into one of our most fruitful, beginning in 2012 when Nena Méndez walked into our 79th Street cafe and noticed a black-and-white mural on the back wall depicting Guadalupe, a coffee farm from her homeland. She inquired about the photographer—who happened to be our Green Coffee Buyer, Dan Streetman—and invited him to visit her family farm on his next trip to El Salvador.

Nena’s mother, Bessita, came from a lineage of Salvadoran coffee farmers dating back to the 1880s, and her father, Alfredo Ortiz Mancia, purchased Talnamica in the 1950s. Today the farm is owned and operated by Nena and her three siblings along with her husband, Hermann, and farm manager Don Hector Vides.

Los Ninos Irving Farm

The Los Niños Experiments came about when Nena & Hermann’s daughter, Mayita—a talented photographer who began working for Irving Farm in 2013 as a barista at our 79th Street cafe before transitioning to our wholesale team—suggested that we explore coffee processing by taking one harvest through four unique processing methods, representing the four Ortiz Herrera siblings: Nena, Freddie, Cecil & Carlos.

The coffee is 100% Bourbon variety, grown at an altitude between 1360–1400 meters, and handpicked by 150 workers on the same day from the same part of the farm. The ripe cherry is brought to Talnamica’s award-winning partners at the Cuatro M coffee mill and that is where the experiments begin...

EXPERIMENT #1: Natural Process The harvested coffee is run through the first stage of the wet mill where it’s cleaned of all debris, and the floaters are separated from the sinkers. This fruit, fully encased in its skin, is then placed in a mechanical dryer at a very low temperature for 60–70 hours.

EXPERIMENT #2: Honey Process The coffee is sorted and de-pulped, removing the skin but leaving some sweet, sticky mucilage on the seed. This coffee is then spread onto a patio and left to dry in the sun.

EXPERIMENT #3: Wild Honey Process This is the wild card, so to speak, and a processing method that is new for us and Finca Talnamica. The coffee is de-pulped and placed into fermentation tanks without water until the pH reaches 4.5, which can take 12–16 hours. This allows the remaining mucilage to slowly break down. The coffee is then spread onto a patio to dry in the sun.

EXPERIMENT #4: Washed Process The coffee is de-pulped and left in the fermentation tanks overnight without water. The next morning it’s sent through the mechanical washer to remove any remaining mucilage and then spread onto a patio to sun-dry. This is a standard processing method and one that we might expect with this particular coffee.

The Los Ninos

It’s a special privilege to work directly with farmers on innovative techniques from planting to harvesting to processing, and we’re very fortunate that the people behind Finca Talnamica (including Mayita, who’s now part of Talnamica’s fifth generation of coffee growers) are so passionate about exploring new ideas. Their collaborative spirit has even extended to the creation of a horchata chocolate bar with Brooklyn’s Raaka Chocolate, and the harvesting of cascara (coffee cherry) specifically for wastED, an experimental pop-up restaurant by Dan Barber at Blue Hill in Manhattan that addressed food waste by transforming scraps and compost into delectable meals.

The Los Ninos Experiments

Irving Farm's Dan Streetman and Mayita Mendez

We look forward to sharing these experiments with you. Come visit us in one of our five cafes, sign up for an Intro to Cupping & Tasting class at our Loft, or purchase all four experiments and create your own tasting lab at home! Hopefully this will be a delicious and surprising journey for our customers as you brew beyond the lingo on a coffee label and develop firsthand knowledge of how process affects flavor.

Looking Back at the 2015 World Barista Championship

Our Green Coffee Buyer, Dan Streetman, has been partipating as a judge in the worldwide barista competition circuit for years now. Here's his inside take on the 2015 World Barista Championship, held this April in Seattle, Washington.

2015 World Barista Championship

Photo by Liz Clayton for Sprudge.com

Attending the World Barista Championships each year is always exciting, but it's even more so when the annual contest is held in the United States. The WBC being in Seattle this year was an exceptional privilege for everyone in the US, as it was the first time it has happened on our shores since Atlanta in 2009. But despite not having to travel as far as Vienna, Bogota, or London, the trip was still a bit of a whirlwind for me personally, as I was responsible for coordinating all of the on-site judging activities in conjunction with all the things I normally do during a Specialty Coffee Association of America event, which this year's WBC was held in tandem with. Still decompressing even now, it took me a bit longer to process, and discern what, if any, takeaways I had from this year’s event. First, let me say congratulations to Sasa Sestic from Australia, the 2015 World Barista Champion! He presented excellent coffee, along with interesting and unique ideas that can be further explored in coffee. Most of the conversation within our industry has focused on “the new” things that emerged in competition, and for certain there were several exciting, innovative ideas presented this year on the WBC stage. World Barista Championship

Photo by Liz Clayton for Sprudge.com.

Sasa’s presentation of the carbonic maceration fermentation process applied to coffee was a unique concept that I have never heard or seen in coffee before, along with Ben Put's presentation of espressos placed into a vacuum chamber to reduce carbon dioxide and change their viscosity. However, what especially stuck with me was Charles Babinski’s focus on systems, and producing coffee following a standardized approach. Charles did that really, really well without necessarily introducing a groundbreaking or innovative approach to “making coffee better”. As the days and weeks have gone on, I have appreciated even more the refocusing that Charles gave us, as an industry, on what it takes to produce and present specialty coffee to the public, and how we do that successfully. It also struck me that Charles was able to achieve that level of success, taking home second place in the world, without fancy new gadgets, doohickeys, etc. I don’t want to go into a detailed analysis of scoresheet lingo, but the point spread of only 5 points between first and second place means that the coffees served by Sasa and Charles were indistinguishable in objective quality by the judges. 

2015 World Barista Championship

Photo by Liz Clayton for Sprudge.com

In other words, all that “newness” didn’t result in dramatically better coffee, and proves that superb coffee can be made following readily accepted standards within our industry. This struck a particular chord with me, as I continually look around the coffee marketplace and see us “reinventing the wheel”. People are continually excited about the “next hot thing” when in reality, producing delicious specialty coffee has not changed in any substantive way in 10 years—sorry folks. What has changed is interest in specialty coffee and its availability. I often wonder how much of this energy in finding the “new” is a drive to get noticed and differentiate from competitors especially when they are only different and not better, and I fear that much of it is.

2015 World Barista

Photo by Liz Clayton for Sprudge.com

Because of this, I am struck by something else about Charles’ approach and conversation during the WBC that seems to be overlooked. Charles’ emphasis was on serving his customers and understanding their needs. He reintroduced to us that we should engage and LISTEN to our customers more when we are designing our businesses and determining what to serve. A wise message for anyone who dares to listen I would say, and one we try to take to heart at Irving Farm, itself a different style of coffee company than Babinski's three Los Angeles cafes. I hope that we can take heed, and learn to look at the specialty coffee drinker as an ally in the pursuit of quality; learning, understanding, and delivering what they want to drink will drive value in the chain for everyone. At least I believe that it will a lot more than innovation for innovation’s own sake, i.e without significant objective and indisputable quality gains. I was particularly inspired by Charles’ message, and look forward to seeing where both innovation, and consistency, take coffee in the future.

First Thursdays

88 Spring - Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

Irving Farm is excited to launch First Thursdays, a new art series turning our 88 Orchard cafe into a pop-up gallery. The high ceilings and ample natural light make it a great venue for contemporary work, but the real draw is its location on the Lower East Side, surrounded by some of New York's most cutting-edge galleries. On the first Thursday of each month we'll host an opening with wine and beer specials. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay in the loop.

 Daddy Fish - Irving Farm

Daddy, fish

"Rendered from a found photograph of my dad, taken circa 1960. This image subtly combines urban and rural signifiers—weathered brick walls/rooftops juxtapose with a freshly caught carp. My father is arrested in his adolescence awkwardly posing with a prized fish—his posture functioning as both a gesture of vulnerability and an assertion of budding male ego. Binaries clash and coexist here—man and nature, austerity and grandeur, innocence and culpability, life and death."[/caption] The series aims to shine a light on emerging talent and it is our great pleasure to kick things off with Debra Zechowski. Born and raised in Greenpoint, Debra began painting at LaGuardia High School, followed by undergraduate work at Hunter College and an MFA from Queens College in 2011. Her large-scale figurative paintings are rendered from old family photographs, revealing the layers of beauty, humor and grace in working-class representation. Deb has worked for Irving Farm since 2012 and we're very proud to be showcasing her substantial artistic talents. Drop by 88 Orchard to see the work seven days a week, 8:30am–8pm, now through May 29th. 

Ma on her wedding day

Ma on her wedding day


"Rendered from a found photograph of my mother on her wedding day in 1968. A unique clash of imagery—the opulence of a bride emerging from a limousine against the backdrop of a working-class neighborhood storefront. An older generation of faceless neighbors looks on in awe—background figures symbolizing both the past and the future. This wedding portrait is a staging of capitalist values—heteronormativity, commerce, gender hierarchies."

And please join us on Thursday, June 4th, for our next show, featuring the work of printmaker Paul Solis.

Blue Hill, Dan Barber and Coffee Get WastED

wastED photography by Daniel Krieger

Photograph by Daniel Krieger

Last month, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters was delighted to participate in Blue Hill's transformation into wastED, a one of a kind pop-up restaurant that invited diners to reconsider food waste while some of the country's top chefs daringly innovated their way through 600 pounds of ugly vegetables (including 350 pounds vegetable pulp), 150 pounds of kale ribs, 30 gallons of beef tallow, 475 pounds of skate cartilage and 900 pounds of waste-fed pigs, creating 10,000 unique dishes over the course of three weeks. Irving Farm's contribution was cascara, also known as the skin or husk of the coffee cherry. When coffee is de-pulped, the discarded cascara is traditionally composted and repurposed as fertilizer (or ends up as a pollutant in the surrounding waterways) but it also contains a delicious mucilage with a sweet, earthy flavor and up to 25% of the caffeine found in a normal cup of coffee. The Ortiz Herrera family at Finca Talnamica in El Salvador generously hand-picked and sun-dried 150 pounds of cascara from their Bourbon plants for this event, and producers Hermann and Nena Mendez were able to dine at wastED with their daughter, Mayita, who has worked for Irving Farm since 2013. Their Talnamica coffee was recently featured in our limited edition Horchata Chocolate Bar from Raaka Chocolate, and it was thrilling to see the husks turned into a delicious infusion that challenged us to rethink the idea of after-dinner coffee. All of this was made possible by the incomparable Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY. We count ourselves very lucky to partner with chefs who are deeply committed to understanding and honoring the scope of how food is grown, prepared and consumed—physically, intellectually and emotionally. Dan is at the forefront of this conversation and our Director of Wholesale, Teresa von Fuchs, was able to chat with him about a few of his takeaways at the conclusion of wastED. 

wastED-kitchen_Dan-Barbe-Daniel-Krieger-Photographer

Photograph by Daniel Krieger

TvF: What was your aim behind the wastED pop up? DB: One goal was can we create something that disrupts our daily routine, wakes us up and really focuses our efforts? I really believe that in cooking (as well as in life, but I don’t give advice about life) you only become better by working outside your comfort zone. And wastED was hard. It stretched us as a restaurant and built camaraderie in really surprising ways. Another aim was to really wear our heart on our sleeves more everyday. Whether we were pushing this agenda because of environmental reasons or economic reasons, could we really highlight our use of craft and not hide the fact that restaurants work to use as much of every ingredient as possible everyday?

wastED-beef-tallow-candle-Noah-Fecks-Photographer

Beef tallow candle at wastED. Photograph by Noah Fecks.

TvF: You mentioned camaraderie. Was one impetus of including guest chefs to help spread the mission? DB: Not at all. Our intent wasn’t to inspire other kitchens but to recognize that this is what Chefs are already doing everyday in their kitchens. Actually we were all a little surprised by the interest! The crazy long lines late at night and all the social media attention. Also that we attracted such younger crowds. It feels like we’ve given the restaurant a new life. TvF: Irving Farm helped source a special cascara (or coffee cherry) preparation for the coffee course. What was your first reaction when you tried it? DB: I really fell in love with it. The fullness of the sweetness was just so surprising. It was really a revelation. I remember standing in the kitchen with Adam Kaye, our Chef and Kitchen director at Stone Barns, and being totally amazed by the flavor. It was one of my top three experiences in this whole process. I can’t wait to keep using it. I want to cook with it. TvF: That’s fantastic! We’re so happy we could share it with you. Now that the pop-up is over, how has it changed—or will it change—the menu at Blue Hill? DB: We’re still figuring that out. I’d really like to keep pushing how we can wear our heart on our sleeve. Most of our menu already addresses waste, so how can we keep calling attention to it without losing diners’ enthusiasm. I hope we keep working on it together.

Huge thanks to Chef Dan, Finca Talnamica and everyone who took the plunge with us at wastED. Stay tuned for more cascara collaborations popping up around the city in the coming months!

The Road To The Brewers Cup

the road to the brewers cup  

Irving Farm's Brandon Epting recently competed at the US Coffee Championships in Long Beach, CA, in the Brewers Cup competition. We asked him about what it took to train for an event like this, and, like most things in coffee, it goes far beyond brewing a perfect cup.

Condensing months of learning, testing, applying, and redoing is difficult. Add to that the experience of meeting extended coffee family—brothers and sisters in the Northeast, cousins along the East Coast, and seldom-seen uncles who offer wisdom and encouragement. This is enough for a person to handle in a short few months: overwhelming activity and emotions, layered on top of the day-to-day mechanics of co-running a coffee shop and being a person...and then competition must be peppered in. After all, that’s the event. People have asked me about the process of preparing for and going through regional and national competitions in the United States Brewers Cup Championship. Mostly, I answer that I thought it’d be a fun thing to try, that competition would increase my knowledge and abilities, and would be a fun way to get paid to brew delicious coffees all the time. These are all true, but they’re the answers I give when I think people don’t want to listen or would like a shorter answer. This is probably why they’re in my second paragraph. 

Brewers Cup

I could also tell them how we at Irving Farm chose to approach the competition this year: mostly for educational growth and the application of quality assurance. When one prepares to go this deep into coffee brewing and assessment, all nuances are scrutinized. Our team learned heaps and could write volumes about our entire process, how it’s changing, and how we hope to apply it from farm to cup. These are the practical applications that are easy to grasp and quantify. They’re also good ways to justify cost and time, as they could easily yield even higher quality than we currently possess. However, I’m convinced that these are not the most valuable take-aways from the process of competition. At least, they’re not what I felt vibrate in my bones. Community and camaraderie, the inspiration of other people and places, the ideas of bringing delicious coffee to the table—these are incredibly valuable. It’s like art, though: how do we express the value of inspiration and excitement? How do we express the experience of giving someone paper and paint, a story and a stage, or a coffee and a friend? You can’t. You can only watch as joy and sunlight stream out of their eyes.

***

Competition required six months of my attention when all was said and done. Some of the associated memories stick out more explicitly than others. One in snow-covered Rhode Island with the kids from New Harvest Coffee. Erick Armbrust and I met when we competed at the regional competition last fall. I’ve met one other person who I knew was family at first handshake, and I hope that one day Erick and I will get to work with each other in coffee or any other thing that requires heart and craft. Erick brought a solid knowledge of coffee and brewing to the table and was also headed to the nationals, so Josh Littlefield and I went to practice run-throughs with him in Providence. We tasted coffee, shared doughnuts, tasted more coffee, and ate Mexican food while Erick told us about the wood shop he wants to build in his living room. I expect a new wallet from him this spring because he's clever with fabrics and sewing machines, too.

 Brewers Cup

In California, during the trip to the nationals, I had a paralyzing emotional reaction that made me a horrible person to be around for much of the trip. Walls went up and I lashed out at friends. I had little control and no idea why I’d shifted into this terror, but it happened—and realizing this only made me more uncomfortable. About five days in, everything clicked. Reliving some parts of our lives is miserable. Fortunately, my teammate Josh Littlefield can mitigate that misery and be gentle and kind, if not a full-on buffer, and can take you around to drink good coffee served by people who give a damn. And my friend Matt Lauria can share apples and clothes, while listening intently about coffee brewing, even though he’s more of a water drinker.

 Brewers Cup 

Brewers Cup

Lastly, and on the day Josh and I were to fly home to NY, our friend Tyler from Wilbur Curtis asked us to meet at Blacktop Coffee. We drank several beautiful coffees poured into turquoise mugs, plated on wooden slats with reserves of coffee in small glass bottles, and ate stunning salmon and eggs that Instagram would swoon over—if you're into that sort of thing. After, we appropriated Tyler from his work and drove to Joshua Tree. Tyler, a new friend, is wildy comfortable to be around, so there was a lot for us all to share. We spoke about where we came from and where we are, our perspectives of the “state of coffee” and our dreams of where we hope it will go. We spoke about relationships and families, business models, cremated rockstars, and drank rainwater on top of huge rocks in the middle of a desert. There’s a decent chance it was actually urine from a well-hydrated desert animal, but we’re still alive and all the better from the experience. 

The competition itself was a mixture of frustration and excitement. With Brewers Cup being so young, there's still confusion of what we're rewarding and penalizing, and whether it's a sourcing or a brewing competition. There's a formula to follow if you're after points, but honestly, these tend to be the least interesting presentations, although often the most expensive and different (read weird and uncommon) coffees. It's a competition after all, so who can blame anyone for collecting points? I took two risky routes out of interest in where I was personally and professionally. Education and progress were my starting blocks, so I explored how isolated brewing variables work collaboratively and made analogies of escaped dinosaurs from Jurassic Park for regionals. At the nationals, I spoke about the choices we have to make as an industry, as roasters, brewers, and drinkers, then offered the judges a choice of two coffees and asked them to choose which they wanted me to brew on the spot. Both of these were a little more involved than the judges liked, but I had a blast doing them. It certainly pushed my boundaries and brought a lot of excitement to the people around me and the audience. We started thinking and discussing and sharing, and that excited me.

Brewers Cup

Brewers Cup

One of my great joys is learning. Another is people, although I'm incredibly uncomfortable around them. Pairing the two and hoping to invest in both brought me to coffee and presented me with one of my best friends, a home, the woman I am dating, and a place to learn better the fullness of relationships, community, and craft. It's also a place I've poured time, blood, sweat, and money into. So, I guess this is really the root of the competition process for me: a coffee and a friend, with a hefty dose of craft.