STORIES


Irving Farm Texas Takeover: A Dan Streetman Barista Getaway

Texas Coffee Cup
Texan demitasse at Houndstooth Coffee, Austin, TX. Photo courtesy Houndstooth Coffee.

It struck me, about 2 days before I left to head home to Texas for a week to serve as a groomsman in my younger brother’s wedding. “What am I going to do for a week in Waco?” The bustling metropolis of Waco has about 200,000 people, or you know, the same number of people who pass through Grand Central Terminal every day, and while I love my parents, the idea of sitting around watching HGTV reruns with them for the entire week was not quite exciting. So it occurred to me, at this last minute: there's so much good coffee in Texas now. “what if I work a couple of barista shifts?” I figured two might be enough to keep life interesting, and leave some time to relax. So I contacted a couple of friends and quickly arranged a guest shift on Tuesday in Austin at Houndstooth Coffee, and the other on Wednesday in San Antonio at Local Coffee. After making the arrangements, I posted my plans to my personal social media pals, hoping that some old friends would come by and see me. Besides, that is what you do in this day and age right? Put everything on social media… But quickly, almost too quickly, David Buehrer from Houston texted me: “Really? Really? You’re not going to come to Houston?” So I agreed to do Houston on Thursday, thinking “Ok—now my schedule is really full, but it won’t be too bad.” After a nice weekend with my brother, and some bachelor party shenanigans, we’d return to Waco. Monday I spent most of the day cleaning out some old things I had left in my parents garage, but at the end of the day, my brother and I wanted to go check out the newly minted Dichotomy Coffee that had recently opened downtown. As we grabbed coffee, I recognized the barista, who also apparently knew my brother. However it was clear that he didn’t remember me, so I jokingly reminded him that we had met at Barista Camp in Austin this spring, and foolishly told him about my plans for the rest of the week. He instantly replied, “oh man, you have to email Brett, and work here on Friday.” What can one more shift hurt? Besides it would be in my hometown.

Day 1: Houndstooth, Austin, TX. “Old friends, new haunts” would be a theme for my jaunt through Texas. I had gotten up by 8am to make it the 2 hour drive to Austin by 10am, for my shift at the newest downtown location of Houndstooth Coffee. Seeing brothers Sean and Paul Henry grow their business is always rewarding for me, as I remember helping them open the first location—I even worked there the first week. Back in 2010, Houndstooth was the first multi-roaster café in Texas, and pretty early in that whole movement. Upon entering I was met immediately by barista trainer Daniel Read, and we quickly started discussing the Austin scene. Having lived in Austin from 2007-2010 I know a lot of the coffee professionals there, and watched a lot of growth. But since I moved away, it seems the scene has really exploded, and it was fun to hear updates on all the new happenings. It was also especially interesting to see how some of the developments in Austin were mirroring what is currently happening in New York, where small independent shops are moving into the higher rent, more populous neighborhoods. This new Houndstooth located inside the iconic Austin Frost Tower building is a prime example. The space has a great feel with windows on 3 sides, and tons of light streaming in. Working behind the bar at Houndstooth was a blast—the staff there are so congenial that it makes customer interaction always feel truly positive. There was a steady flow into the afternoon, which kept the pace fun, and lively. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of the customers were ordering single espressos, and cappuccinos. This was definitely not the Texas coffee scene I worked in as a barista. The staff were digging the Santa Isabel Guatemala and the Amaro Gayo Ethiopia I brought with me. After my shift, I would head to dinner with Sean from Houndstooth for dinner, where we eventually met up with Lorenzo Perkins of Cuvee Coffee. Hanging out with these guys was a blast from the past, and we wiled the night away postulating about the future of the coffee industry.

Dan Local Coffee

Dan Streetman on the brew bar at Local Coffee, San Antonio, TX. Photo courtesy Catherine Manterola (@ManterolaC) on Twitter.

Day 2: Local Coffee San Antonio Wednesday brought another early morning and another 2 hour commute to a 10am shift. Of course, who can complain when your motel is conveniently located directly under the highway, and they serve you breakfast that comes in 36-packs from Costco? Arriving in San Antonio, I was greeted with a big smile and a curly mustache from my long time friend Andrew Schulz, the manager of Local Coffee’s Pearl location. Andrew and I go back to my days as a café manager, when I hired him for his first barista job—old friends, new haunts, remember? The bar at the Pearl location was extremely spacious, and I quickly hopped to working, rolling out El Molino single origin espresso drinks, along with making Chemexes of El Molino and Guadalupe and waxing poetic about the effects of natural and washed processing on their flavor to anyone who would listen. You see, these two farms, located directly next to each other, and both containing almost solely bourbon variety coffee trees, are among the greatest examples I’ve encountered of tasting how one variable affects the flavor of the coffee. A parade of staff from Local’s other locations came through along with several famous area chefs, and a multitude of loyal customers. The Pearl district is probably the most happening place in San Antonio, and Local is definitely the coffee shop leading the way for the city. After lunch, Local’s owner Robby Grubbs came in and we caught up, reminiscing about the early days when he opened his first location in Sonterra, and discussed some of his future plans. It seemed that growth in coffee cafes/culture was not isolated to Austin.

Dan Local Coffee -  Texas
Day 3: Blacksmith, Houston I got a late start on this fine Thursday morning: hanging with old friends and the San Antonio Spurs going up 2-0 in the Conference Finals are a great recipe for a late night. This meant my 3-hour commute to Houston would have me arrive just about lunch-time. Sure enough I made it to Blacksmith at noon sharp, and I was greeted by a sharply dressed David Buehrer with “can I feed you lunch before your shift?” I politely accepted, and moments later Vietnamese Steak & Eggs appeared in front of me. A dish that is the essence of Blacksmith, simple and interesting food, paired with great coffee. The barista on shift had dialed in our Blackstrap Espresso, along with the Guadalupe they were brewing for their drip option of the day. David had been insistent I must come to Houston, and I must say the trip was well worth it. It was also especially fun to work at Blacksmith after hearing the plans for years. After lunch, I took my turn behind the counter, and enjoyed the flow of the café throughout the afternoon, while discussing work-flow and training techniques with Blacksmith trainer John, David made plans for us to all go to dinner with his partner Ecky, and boy was I in for a treat. Across the street from Blacksmith is a recently James-Beard-awarded restaurant Underbelly. After being seated, we were greeted by Chef Chris Shepherd, a quick exchange and all of a sudden we’d surrendered our will to the whims of the kitchen. Dinner proceeded with exceptional results, to the effect that by 10pm, I was insisting I must get on the road, to begin my 3-hour journey back to Waco, and return the rental car by 8am the next morning.


Dan and Michael Suttle at Dichotomy, Waco, TX. Photo courtesy @Dichotomy_CS on Twitter.

Day 4: Dichotomy Coffee, Waco Texas The 7:30 alarm came as if it were the conclusion of the previous night’s drive. I deliriously crawled out of bed to return the rental car. Returned to my folks’ for a 1-hour nap and then off to pick up my tuxedo for the wedding on my way to Dichotomy! Arriving at Dichotomy, I was sharing space with their other roasters, Counter Culture, and Tweed. So I asked the staff if they wanted to have some fun, and we decided to roll with Amaro Gayo, Ethiopia on Espresso to contrast the Tweed Guatemala, and to do our Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, along with Counter Culture’s Kilenso Mokonisa, Ethiopia on pour-over. Brett, the owner of Dichotomy scheduled me on a split shift which was great, as I got to interact with more of Dichotomy’s staff, a young and enthusiastic crew, who are extremely into coffee. I enjoyed rocking their Modbar, but it was the customer conversations that really went the distance. Many of the customers seemed accustomed to waiting the 3-5 minutes for their pour-over or loose leaf tea, and were eager to talk with the very friendly staff. Dichotomy’s space is large, and spacious with high ceilings, a renovated downtown building that represents a growing interest in the city to revitalize the city’s core after it was gutted by both suburbanization and a tornado in the 1950’s. How fitting then, to end my journey at the end of the new growth branch, for the Texas Coffee Scene, and also for Waco’s Downtown. After it all, I felt as if I had maybe bitten off a little more than a could chew, but I didn’t regret the decisions one minute. The week long journey represented so much more, in sharing where I have been and what I am doing with so many people close to me through-out Texas, along with reciprocating that with them. What a rewarding journey.

Out and About This Fall With Irving Farm

If you've tasted Irving Farm coffee being served at a food event, charity food event, farmer's food event or anything in between, chances are you've met our Directof of Wholesale, Teresa von Fuchs. Sometime in between working directly with those who proudly brew and serve Irving Farm, and attending all of these amazing events, Teresa managed to write a little recap for us of what she's been up to. Suddenly the rest of us feel like massive underachievers.   

Fall is a busy time of year for us at Irving Farm. It’s a time of bounty and harvest and celebrating the ripening of all the the seeds sown during the spring and summer. Though we don’t actually ‘grow’ our coffee on our farm, we’re pleased to be invited to participate in celebrating the bounty of harvest time with our many partners and friends in the food community. Here’s a quick wrap up of the celebrations we’ve been proud to share in—and share our coffee at. We started summer off right, making coffee for the Chef Farmer Brunch, hosted by No 9 to benefit the North East Community Center in Millerton. We made Kalitas of the fruit-forward Amaro Gayo in the beautiful Silver Barn—though we missed the evening barn dance, we’ll be there next year with our boots on!  

 Taste of Hudson Valley Bounty

The next weekend, also near our upstate roastery, we were featured in the delicious art installation Pancakes and Coffee by one of the Wassiac Project’s founders Jeff Barnett-Winsby. The annual weekend long Summer Festival showcases work by the artists in residency at the Wassaic Project as well as other artists, musicians and dancers from the community. The same weekend we were pleased to present some delicious pourovers at the annual Taste of Hudson Valley Bounty event and meet some more of our neighbors in farming and food. All of this inspired us to host one of our own events: in September we held our first coffee launch party, featuring the Ortiz Herrera and Mendez families and their coffees, Natamaya and Talnamica, at our 79th street cafe. There were specialty Salvadorian snacks, lots of coffee and wonderful family. 

The next night we made merry with our longtime neighbors around Union Square at the Union Square Partnership’s annual Harvest in the Square. One of the first neighborhood-based tasting events in the city, Harvest in the Square connects the farmers of the city’s many farmers’ markets with the chefs and food artisans who use their beautiful produce and other foods. We felt right at home making coffee for the crowd of 1,000 attendees, vendors and volunteers on a beautiful night in Union Square, just around the way from our flagship cafe at 71 Irving Place. Irving Farm coffee was also fuel for the the James Beard Chef Bootcamp at Glynwood. Attendees enjoyed 71 Irving House Blend during the course of the conference and then selected coffees from some of our closest farm relationships to close out the chef’s signature meals of the final evening.

 

We were also honored to be invited by Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber to this year’s G9 (now G11) summit held at Stone Barns. One hundred and twenty chefs, seed breeders and journalists from the around the world were invited to a day of discussion at Stone Barns about “The Future of Flavor.” We were there to keep the crowd energized and delighted with the unique and varied flavors of coffees. We selected coffees from our offerings that showcased a range of varietals, processing methods and terroirs, and the quality and variety of our coffee selection was not missed by the audience. Fast forward to later that same week and we sent a cadre of Irving Farmers to the annual MANE conference in Pawtucket, RI. Our team taught and attended classes and ruled the dance floor—and I was honored to present on the “How Did You Get Here?” panel, revealing the secrets of how I got where I am today (in coffee—not dance moves).

 

 

This fall also marked the inaugural Taste of Gramercy event, held on a beautiful sunday in October on our home turf of Irving Place. We mingled with Gramercy Tavern, Casa Mono and many of our well-known neighbors and met some new ones at well. That same day (!) we packed up our brewing gear and headed out to the Catskills to work with our partners at Table on Ten in Bloomville, NY on a blend that represents their community-driven spirit. We brewed three coffees, each roasted with two different expressions and gave tasting flights all day to anyone and everyone who stopped in. We then created a blend with the two coffees that received the warmest receptions and played best together. We were also so warmed by their community. Everyone made us feel right at home. It was hard to leave, but we were welcomed back to the Hudson Valley to kick off Hudson Valley Restaurant Week! This is our second year as the official coffee sponsor and we were pleased as punch to spend the day brewing coffee at the Millbrook Winery and warming our bellies with veggie stew from Chef Eric Gabrynowicz of Restaurant North. And so we wrapped up the exciting season appropriately—at our upstate home in Dutchess County. It was our first year at this event and we were struck by how beautiful and bountiful and far-reaching our community is. As fall winds down into the holiday season we are most thankful for our fellow families of artisan producers and lovers of tasty things grown and crafted by hand!

Postcards from MANE

Taking a load off at MANE. Photos by Joshua Littlefield.

"The experience I gained at MANE (Mid-Atlantic Northeast Coffee Conference) is invaluable. During those three days, I was able to attend several courses, including a cupping with winning farms from Rwanda/Burundi. What I realized is that Cup of Excellence isn't always exactly what you'd expect (i.e. we tasted lots of potato defects.) What I also learned is the importance of quality control and thinking through the aspects of sensory analysis. Nevertheless, the true highlights for me were hearing George Howell's speech on the ability to thrive and learn about what seems to be the never-ending science of coffee. What was also wonderful to see were the abundance of varietals and cultivars in a class given by Matt Brown of Cafe Imports. Given this experience, I have tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to be able to go to MANE. And I'm looking forward to sharing this newfound knowledge at Irving Farm! — Kai, 71 Irving Place  
Teresa training and MANEing.

"I had so much fun at MANE and was so happy to have had the opportunity to go! The thing that stood out to me the most was being able to see all the different paths that you could go within coffee. From growers to buyers, baristas and sales reps, the coffee community itself is a very large but connected community. At the "How Did They Get Here" panel, all of the coffee professionals talked about how they started out, mostly barista jobs but not looking to stay in coffee. No matter how many times they left coffee, because of personal lives, financial reasons, or relocating, they always somehow found their way back to the coffee. They all seemed to have a true passion for coffee not just in their jobs but in their own lives. My favorite class I took was deconstructing espresso machines. There, I gained a whole new respect for the machines and the techs that work on them after finding out just how electrical and explosive the machines really are. It also gave me a better understanding of their internal mechanics and how each part works. MANE was a great experience and it helped me to better understand just how big the coffee world is. I am so greatful and thankful to have gone with such an amazing team. And even though the po-po shut down the latte art throwdown, they couldn't keep us from killin it on the dance floor." — Hannah, Millerton Coffee House
Tamara tearing up the floor at MANE.

"I became a barista originally because I just needed a job to make money, and about a year ago I actually tried to leave because I thought it was time for me to grow up and get a 'real' job. But one of the things that had stuck out to me during my time at Irving Farm—and what eventually brought me back—was the strong sense of community and family. Working for Irving Farm, as a barista, was actually one of the few times in my professional life that I had felt truly supported, respected, and cared for by the people I worked with. And it was that sense of community, and sense of family, that beckoned my return to being a barista. I can't think of many other people I know who work in a profession where they have such a strong and immediate bond with others in their field. Since then I've learned that that sense of community, and general spirit of camaraderie, extends beyond Irving Farm into the coffee community at large. Having the opportunity to go to events like MANE, and being able to meet and connect with so many people all united by a common passion, and who all seem genuinely and earnestly excited about sharing that passion with other likeminded folks, is truly remarkable. MANE is particularly wonderful for folks more newly joining the coffee scene to get a sense of what's out there. It's a smaller event, and less expensive to participate in than some bigger events, so it's not as daunting of a commitment to go to for anyone in the Northeast who works in the coffee industry. There are just enough people there so that you run into a few familiar faces, but you still meet and exchange ideas with many new ones as well. There was a class or panel for everyone, whether you were a roaster, barista, coffee shop manager, or just someone interested in coffee. One of my favorite classes was on the "flavor wheel"—a comprehensive chart developed to categorize aromas and tastes in coffee. And it was amazing to learn that despite the fact that coffee has been around for a very long time, the science of tasting coffee is still an emerging field, and there's still a lot to learn and discover. Another class I really enjoyed was on espresso extraction. In that class, we split into small groups and had to dial in a coffee—that we knew nothing about beforehand—to try and optimize the taste of the espresso and drawing out its best qualities in the shot. We played around with dose, time, and grind to see how each of these variables affected the way the espresso tasted. We were delighted to find that the settings we were most happy with matched, almost exactly, the description the coffee roaster had printed on the bag! On the last day of the event, there was a panel featuring a variety of speakers who'd found ways to take their passion for coffee and turn it into a career, which really hammered home the significance of being there. These were people who were once where I was—passionate but still uncertain—and who had taken what they loved and what they were good at, and made it into a meaningful career. Listening to them helped me connect all of the new information I'd gleaned from classes and all of the sharing and exchanges I'd had with different people, and helped me see the myriad possibilities I had for my future in coffee. Which is really, really exciting. I'm looking forward to more opportunities like MANE where I can learn new things and share in new creative ideas with other people who are as passionate and enthusiastic about their work in coffee as I am. — Liz, 79th & Broadway

A word about the Barista Guild of America

Dan Streetman, Irving Farm's Director of Coffee, is also outgoing Chair of the Barista Guild of America's Executive Council. Here are a few words in parting.

This spring at the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America Expo, my term as Chair of the Barista Guild of America’s Executive Council came to an end. While I will still serve in an advisory role for the next year as “Past Chair,” it felt like a climactic moment. This was especially true during our annual post-expo Monday meeting—letting go of the reins proved to be difficult and tinged with emotion. It has been a supreme privilege to serve the Barista Guild membership, and especially to work with the other members of the Executive Council.

At the ripe age of 10 years, the Barista Guild is reaching maturity. It is exciting to see the growth in membership and engagement since I joined as a member in 2004. I initially became a member because at the time the Barista Guild forum was the place people were talking about coffee. Membership gave me a window into what was happening in many different parts of the country, and access to industry leaders. In 2008 I ran for a spot on the Executive Council because by then I had a full time job in coffee, and wanted to find ways to ensure that other people would have the opportunities I had to learn and grow into the industry through the Barista Guild. When I joined the Executive Council, the primary conversation about the Barista Guild was: why does it exist? Today the biggest question I hear is: How can I get involved?

The past year, 2012–13 was a year of growth for the Barista Guild, our first year seeing two of the signature Barista Camp events which continue to be huge successes. The only complaint seems to be: “do more of these and in more places.” Looking to the future, I pushed hard to improve the structure of the Barista Guild and its ability to achieve specific results. I am proud to say that the resulting by-law changes which expanded the Executive Council and solidified the development of working committees are a huge step in the direction of making the guild a more vibrant, and more responsive organization to the members, and to the industry. We needed to expand the Executive Council to continue to support the events and programs the Barista Guild has launched, and the working committees promise to be a vital way to expand programming and allow more members to get involved.

I can’t possibly take credit for everything the Barista Guild has accomplished over the past year, because there are so many dynamic leaders who are a part of the Executive Council. These leaders make me confident in the future of the organization and the professional craft. The Executive Council has big plans for the coming years, and I am excited to see that trajectory take shape and I hope to be able to continue to contribute to furthering the craft of specialty coffee. And congratulations on the incoming executive council: Miguel Vicuna, Laila Ghambari, Alexandra LittleJohn and Cole McBride. All of us in the Barista Guild and the coffee community at large look forward to reaping the benefits of your leadership.

We Love Hudson Valley Restaurant Week!

 

Irving Farm's ongoing relationship with Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is a great way for us to show our support of the vibrant, delicious locavore food culture of the Hudson Valley. From the coffee beans we roast farmhouse fresh in Dutchess county to the cups we serve at our Millerton Cafe and in New York City, to the people who enjoy our coffee after dinner at countless Hudson Valley Restaurants--we couldn't be happier to be a part of this culinary community. Moreover, we find the farm-to-chef conversation critical to our own goals in bringing conscientiously sourced, high quality coffee to our little corner of the world.  We were delighted to hold a series of coffee tastings at our Millerton cafe last week to honor our connection to this celebration. Thanks again to all involved for a great two-week week of beautiful, thoughtful cuisine, and the great conversations it inspires.

We're back from TED and full of ideas!

Beyond the talks and minds that make TED famous each year is a particular kind of fuel we're proud to be in the business of: coffee, and the customer service that goes along with it. This year, we were honored to have two of our best coffee professionals, Teresa von Fuchs and Tamara Vigil, selected to help out at the TEDcoffee portion of TED. Here's Teresa's firsthand account of what made it so special.   

I first heard about TED when someone sent me the video link of Jill Bolte Taylor detailing her stroke. The story of a Neuroanatomist experiencing her own brain in such a unique way, and then being able to detail that experience just blew me away.The venue for sharing this was TED—and uniquely TED.

So when I was invited, along with 30 other respected coffee professionals, to be a part of this year’s TED, as part of the coffee service program, I was thrilled. Thrilled by the thought of rubbing shoulders with great minds in so many different fields. (And of course there was some of that—I actually met Dr. Bolte Taylor, along with some other very inspiring and smart people). And thrilled by the coffee peers selected with me, and by the way new ideas were able to germinate and bloom so quickly in the simple act of working together. Thrilled by how with even the barest infrastructure, we all took the task of pouring what we loved about coffee so seriously into every cup.

A little background on this year’s #TEDcoffee, as we called it. While serious coffee has always been important to the TED organizers, this was the first year the Barista Guild of America (BGA), the Roasters Guild and the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) had the opportunity to take on the project and present a coffee service as a collaboration.

The Roasters Guild held an open call for coffee submissions, and blind cupped coffees from 36 different roasters. They then selected five coffees to be highlighted as single origins, and created one blend using coffees from three different roasters.

The Barista Guild sent invites to members it had identified as having strong “skills in not only making great coffee but being exceptional ambassadors for specialty coffee.” And the SCAA asked its equipment and smallwares members if they could loan/donate/pitch in to create the seven bars that were open continuously during the event. There’s no overstating what a massive amount of logistical, organizational and plain-old-elbow-grease was required to just set the process in motion, let alone pull it off as a raging success. Huge props, hugs and high fives go out to Chris Schooley, Head of the Roasters Guild, Trevor Corlett, Vice-Chair of the BGA, Julie Housh of World Coffee Events and Peter Giuliano of SCAA Symposium.

The day before TED opened, 30 baristas flew to California from all over the world and met up at SCAA headquarters in Long Beach to get the scoop on the work we had cut out for us during the next week. Our organizing leaders had invited the barista team because they knew we could all make great coffee and spin a good yarn about what makes it special, but they had an even clearer idea of what they wanted service to look like. Ric Rhinehart, Executive Director of the SCAA, started us off by talking about how we’re all here because we love coffee:

“We think it’s really important, but at the end of the day, it’s just coffee. We’re not curing cancer, its not rocket science, there’s no nutritive value. But that’s one of the reasons its special. We don’t need wine or music or love to survive either, but it’s those things that make life richer, sweeter. And coffee has that power too, to enhance our lives not because we need it, but because we love it. And we can share that love with the folks at TED.”

We were encouraged to talk about the coffees by talking about what we were doing, not just the seed-to-cup story, but focusing on the craftsmanship and artistry of making specialty coffee special. In the same vein, Chris Schooley asked that we focus on the actual people who roasted these coffees. We were given info about each coffee, and each roaster detailed how he or she approached this coffee. He asked that we name the roaster, not just the company, for each coffee when we served it.

Trevor Corlett followed this up by reminding us that the story of all of us coming together from competing companies, that we volunteered our time and paid our own ways to be there, could help create the potential “lightbulb” moment for people in attendance.  These were, after all, some of the brightest people in the world, coming together to share ideas: why wouldn’t they want to share some ideas about coffee with some of the brightest coffee pros around?

All this inspiring talk about service and love eased us into the nitty gritty of schedules: though it was now pushing 10pm, some folks were still needed to finish setting up the bars. And this was basically how the rest of the week would run: morning meetings started at 7am, we started closing the coffee bars down at 7pm, and then all tromped to dinner where we’d discuss the finer points of how these big ideas of service were translating into the day-to-day details.

So how did all these big ideas translate into actual service? About as well as they do at home, in all of our best-intentioned specialty coffee businesses. A small percentage of folks already got it and were thrilled with what we were doing and that we were there. A similar percentage commented that they’d come in with a cup of something else and soon realized they couldn’t drink it once they compared it with the deliciousness we were serving. A few folks had their socks blown off for the first time. Most folks said thank you. And a good number barely registered that we weren’t catering staff. And though that reality could seem disheartening, it didn’t kill the love we poured into every cup one bit. It didn’t dampen the collective professional passion, or our ability to remain open to learning something from the person working beside us.There was a really natural and quick evolution of bar/work flow as folks from all different shops and backgrounds worked together during the stampedes to fill every cup, and how we drew together in the slow times to coax attendees into engaging. The story of collaboration, of the three-roaster blend, of working next to someone who at other times is a “competitor” (in business life, or literally your opponent in a barista competition) infused the whole experience, creating real magic. As Peter G. encouraged us in our early meeting, this helped us bring “real humanity into the equation of specialty.”

I don’t mean to downplay the joy or truly incredible experience many attendees had—there were meaningful and rewarding service moments every day, when someone (like former VP Al Gore or the head of Google) started asking questions about the coffee or what we were doing, or why our badges said volunteer when we were clearly working hard, or had that look of pure delight when they took a sip and actually tasted the coffee.

One of my favorite, though silly, moments was overhearing an attendee, or TEDster as we called them, walk by and ask her friend “Did you know the coffee people here are world champion coffee makers? They came just to make us award winning coffee.”  But one of the biggest things I took back with me was how much we can learn about preparation and presentation from the spirit of collaboration—of working with people who you’d otherwise not have the opportunity to work beside. This coming together renewed a focus on the coffee as a whole as special, not just our company or shop or cup or even the coffee producer, but the collective work and passion that goes into the whole equation.

Along these lines, I want to mention a parallel I’m still chewing on from one of the talks I got to hear during the event. We talked about this and many other ideas from the talks in our clean-up or slow moments, but I’d like to know what you all think about how this idea can relate to our work: musician and performer Amanda Palmer talked about wanting to never lose a direct “intense kind of eye contact” connection with her fans, about how she approaches her art, her life and her music with a daring trust in her fans and collaborators to support and “catch” her.

And from that perspective it looked like maybe the music industry has been asking the wrong question, when it wonders “How do we get people to pay for music?” The question she wants to explore is how can we ask them to pay for music? And in that vein, I’m wondering how we can we ask our customers and coffee drinking people what’s special to them about coffee and in what new ways we can draw them into our love and passion.

Thanks for reading, it was a long, awesome week and this is really only the beginning of the ideas and inspiration bubbling up. For a full list of “winning” coffees, “world champion coffee makers” and partner supporting organizations that made #TEDcoffee possible, check out the BGA blog here.

SCAA Special Recognition Awarded to Dan Streetman!

Congratulations to Dan Streetman, winner of a 2013 SCAA Special Recognition award!

We at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters have recognized Dan Streetman, our Green Coffee Buyer and Vice President of Wholesale, as special for some time. His career path and dedication to specialty coffee speak for themselves: for ten years, Dan has applied himself to constantly bettering his understanding of coffee and, in turn, helping coffee get better alongside it. As a seasoned coffee professional, Dan's had a chance to work for such venerated companies as Cuvee Coffee Roasting Company, in his home state of Texas, and historic Dallis Bros. Coffee here in New York City.

All the while, Dan's been seen on the scene: whether it's his worth with the Barista Guild of America, helping baristas further themselves along with the craft of coffee preparation, or his countless hours volunteering as a Certified Head Judge at barista competitions nationwide since 2008. As a member of Team Irving Farm, we've been honored to have his guidance and expertise in the continued improvement of our green coffee sourcing operations, among countless other contributions he makes to our wholesale and day to day operations.

We're thrilled, then, to see him receive this unique Special Recognition Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America for 2013, to be formally awarded at the SCAA annual conference in Boston, this coming April. From the SCAA website: "These leaders have made contributions to the industry, resulting in the development and promotion of coffee excellence and sustainability." We couldn't agree more. Congratulations, Dan!

Irving Farm Coffee Takes the Stage!

Join us this week in cheering on two of Irving Farm's favorite coffees and coffee people in the 2013 Northeast Regional Barista Competition, taking place right here in New York City. This annual event leads up to the United States Barista Championship, and is an exciting way to raise awareness of what great coffee is and can be, through competition between the very best of the very best. Our Director of Education, Tamara Vigil, and our Tech Extraordinaire, Bill McAllister, will compete Wednesday and Thursday in the Barista Competition and Brewer's Cup. Tamara will be using our exclusive, only-available-in-stores Colombia Willer Rivera coffee, and Bill will be showcasing our amazing Los Lirios from Honduras. The event is open to the public and streaming online, or capture the magic at home with a bag of fresh roasted Irving Farm coffee!

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