STORIES


Slowing Down and Cooling Down With Slow Food NYC

Irving Farm

We who love coffee know that without food, there would be no coffee, because we all would have starved to death. Sustainable food, then, goes hand in hand with sustainable coffee, and it was with excited hearts that we welcomed our friends at Slow Food NYC to our Flatiron training lab last Monday for a hot summer night that was all about staying cool. 

Irving

We led a class of 14 Slow Foodies on a guided adventure of cold brewing, icy pouring-over, and of course...cool coffee cocktails, all based on our summery sweet Amaro Gayo coffee from Ethiopia. 

This was our first time teaming up with Slow Food NYC...and definitely not our last. We're looking forward to more collabos and classes in the future, and we'll be sure to let you know.

In the meantime, here's a peek at our night with Teresa, Josh and Angelika schoolin' Slow Food on cool coffee. Iced Pour-Over (Japanese-style) Cold Brew (24 hours) Affogato (espresso over fresh ice cream) Amaro Gayo Egg Cream (espresso, chocolate & vanilla syrups shaken and topped with soda water) Purple Reign (Amaro Gayo, Aperol orange bitters, dry vermouth, grapefruit. Served neat or over ice.) Espresso & Clouds (espresso over citrus simple syrup foam)

We had a blast cooling off these true food enthusiasts, and can't wait to start warming up for the next class soon!

A Trip to Barista Camp for Irving Farm

Barista Camp

As much as we like to sell bags of coffee and talk about how great it is to brew at home, there's one thing home brewing can never replicate: the energy of a cafe, and the spirit of a barista. We know that part of creating our home-away-from-home experience for people who visit Irving Farm has much to do with the spirit of those who make up our crew--and there's no better way to keep people engaged and enthusiastic, passionate and curious, than to surround them with like-minded professionals. It's this thinking that keeps us sending Irving Farm folk to Barista Camp, a twice-a-year training camp held by the Barista Guild of America that brings together all experience levels to learn from and meet one another--while receiving professional certifications and hands-on training. This spring, we sent two of our team--Ben from 71 Irving and David from 79th Street--to sleepaway barista camp in Wisconsin. When not busy having fun, or recovering from it, they were thoughtful enough to send some postcards home.

"David and I were sent to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for Barista Camp. Camp activities included things like cupping coffee and tea and milk steaming classes, and within all of that time were great moments with some really great people in the coffee industry. While we had several hours of coursework on espresso and brewing, we also had time to practice on the espresso machines. Being able to spend time with machines I've never seen was a real plus. Even with all of the aforementioned machine playtime and three meals a day, I'm most grateful for the human element. Having the opportunity to interact with people within our community that have such care and passion for what we do, and representing a company that cares about education to the extent that it does, made my camp experience so enlivening." -- Ben
"It was such a memorable experience! When I imagined barista camp, in my mind I had this picture of people getting up early from bed, and going to sleep late at night, and learning all day. (In other words: boring.) And this is exactly what happened—but there was a big difference at this camp. We learned a lot of things about coffee and the art of making an excellent cup of coffee, but at the same time, the more I learned about coffee, the more I craved more knowledge, and the time kept getting shorter each day. Lectures were given by some of the most experienced instructors in the industry, and there were opportunities for everyone who was there to experiment with different kinds of machines and equipment. My favorite equipment was the siphon, which gives a very distinct cup of coffee. Rich in flavor, but also clean, uninterrupted flavor. The espresso machines were of all kinds, including the famous La Marzocco Strada, similar to the one we have at 79, which I was able to practice on. Though we were at the barista camp, we had an opportunity to attend a lecture about tea as well, which was taught by the best instructors from Rishi Tea company, and we also had a tea cupping session. We attended more classes, and learned more about measurements and qualities of coffee, and how to identify different kinds of flavor notes in espresso shots. We learned a lot about milk, and how different types of milks affect the quality of coffee drinks--including different kinds of cows, and the way they are taken care of, and how the kinds of grass they eat can make a huge difference in the cup. We had a milk cupping session which gave me a whole new perspective in the way I see milk. Just as importantly, we had enough time to interact with each other and exchange knowledge. I was able to tell them about Irving Farm Coffee, which made a few people interested in coming to New York, and I got to learn about other coffee companies as well. It was nice to know that many people knew our own Tam, and I was glad to talk about her behind her back. And in the end I was able to take my level one certificate barista test, and I hope to receive my certificate soon." --David
To get involved with the next Barista Camp taking place October 6-9 in Rancho Mirage, California, visit the Barista Guild of America website. Registration opens July 15!

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.

Irving Farm at United States Barista Championship!

If you know the Irving Farm family well, you may be lucky enough to know Tamara Vigil, our Director of Education. In between stints enlightening our own baristas with coffee science, and the wonderful cafes and restaurants that use our coffee, Tamara's spent the last several months training for barista competitions in the Northeast, and now this week, at the national level.

Tam's training time took a little longer than usual if you add in the consideration that the original Northeast Regional Barista Competition was derailed in November by Hurricane Sandy—but after making the regional finals in February, Tamara's excited to go on to compete in Boston, Mass. this week against the best of the best in the industry in the United States Barista Championship. (And knowing a good thing when they see it, Tamara was also recently profiled by the Barista Guild of America in their Five Questions interview series.)

At the Northeast, Tamara competed using our Willer Rivera coffee from Colombia, a beautiful one-bag microlot sourced by our coffee director Dan Streetman. Señor Rivera's coffee is long gone, but Tamara's using another incredible Single Origin Colombian coffee, this one from coffee producer Orlando Osa, instead. Orlando's farm is only a day's walk from Willer Rivera's, and we're so excited to watch Tamara compete with this special coffee we're even sending our roastmaster, Clyde Miller, along with two other team members, to help cheer and support Tam in person. Tune in to all the weekend's festivities live-streaming at usbaristachampionship.org Tam will be competing on Thursday, and we'll announce the time on our Twitter feed. Go team Irving Farm, and go team Tam!

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!

Focus on Single Origin Coffees

Here at Irving Farm, we think one of the most incredible ways to appreciate coffee is to fine-tune our vision to a specific region and terroir. For this reason, we're enthralled with Single Origin coffees: coffees that are purely from one specific region or small lot, that we can identify as beautifully unique to their growing origin. Unlike blends, which are a beautiful, careful balancing act of finesse and flavor, Single Origins are truly individual. It's up to our cuppers and roasters to get the best expression out of each bean, without tempering any of the coffee's natural flavors with anything else. Explore our Single Origin offerings today, like our new Nicaragua Los Pozos, purchased in an auction from new coffee importer Pulley Collective, or our lovely, organic Rwanda Coopac Bourbon, full of delicious notes of red fruit and oak.

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