AS THEFLIES


Farewell to A Farmer: David

Irving Farm Farmer David

Photo by Bill Bullard

Last month we bid farewell to David Saileni, an Irving Farmer since 2011, who began working at our former cafe on 7th Avenue and managed to pull shifts at every single location except for Millerton, which is quite a feat. He's a customer favorite and you only need to spend a few minutes in his presence to understand why. Originally from Tanzania, David moved to Washington, DC, in 1998 before relocating to NYC in the early aughts where he began working for Whole Foods. His friendly customer service resulted in a friendship outside the store with Sandra David which eventually led to marriage, and it is this particular life adventure that is now leading him to Charlotte, NC, where Sandra is pursuing a job opportunity in the world of taxes and accounting. In an effort to assuage our sadness over his departure, here are a few things we've learned about David and his uniquely positive energy. It's a glimpse of what we'll miss, and what we've grown to love.

Irving Farm Coffee - Farmer David

If you scroll through David's photos on his phone you will see clouds. Hundreds upon hundreds of clouds. He's captivated by their transient nature and shifting beauty, how they invite you to observe patiently. If you don't see anything at first, wait a moment and a shape will be revealed. If you see something extraordinary, capture it in a picture because it won't last. His prized photo of a cloud shaped like a crocodile is trapped in his old phone which got stolen, then recovered, then held as evidence in the investigation, then returned to him eight months later with the SIM card locked for 23,000,000 minutes. David recognizes that he'll be elderly and close to death when this phone is liberated, but he cheerily entertains the possibility of sharing the crocodile cloud with his grandchildren one day because, after all, even a locked SIM card is impermanent.

He also has hundreds of photos of butterflies. As a kid in Tanzania he would see all sorts of butterflies and it was only later that he realized people traveled from all over the world to see this rare population. After school he would get distracted for hours studying the variety of shapes and patterns. He would collect the butterflies with his friends and carry them to the rooftops where they would be released in a flight of winged color, a ritual that became an emblem of his own desire to see the world in its profound multiplicity, something his father got to do as a member of Tanzanian parliament.

Farmer david Irving FarmAnother favorite animal is the honey badger for its determination and resilience. Even in the face of bee stings and snake bites, the honey badger will not give up. And it is reasonable to expect that David would also brave poisonous attacks in the pursuit of his goals. We once saw him shove his arm down a clogged drain in the floor at our 79th Street cafe while everyone else stood dumbfounded by the spewing, gurgling mess. That was definitely a honey badger moment.

When asked about his secret to making such incredible latte art, he says it's all about taking his time. When he went to Barista Camp in Wisconsin he realized how much emphasis was being placed on minimizing the time it takes to craft an espresso beverage in an effort to increase efficiency and output. He began to explore what would happen if he slowed down by a few seconds each step along the way. This slight increase in production time resulted in a more relaxed energy, both for himself and the customer. He wants each customer to know that he's invested in them having a good beverage and a great experience, that he's really with them in that moment and it's an opportunity to make a meaningful connection. There is an extraordinary patience in his willingness to observe the formation of a cloud, the delicate designs on a butterfly's wing, the perfectly textured milk breaking the surface of the espresso and the gentle merging of crisp whites and silky caramels.

If David has a weakness, it's bananas. He's been known to consume up to ten bananas per day, his regular number being seven. This somewhat limited diet was only supplemented by oranges and the occasional avocado or chocolate bar, so upon seeing his blood sugar levels a doctor had to intervene and demand that he scale back. He's now down to four bananas per day, so there's hope that he'll live to see the crocodile cloud once more.

Irving Farm - David

"Enjoy the day. Forget everything and just enjoy. Go out there and have fun."

This is what David says he wishes for each customer, because he knows that people enter the coffee shop with any number of worries, so his interaction with them could be the only affirming moment of their day. When he was a kid, if he struggled in school or had a bad day he knew that afterwards he'd be able to spend time with the butterflies, and that for every difficult weekday there would always be Saturday when he could relax in nature. As an adult he understands that if you hate yourself, everyone you encounter becomes a monster, so his abiding creed is, "Love yourself, and love others the same way you love yourself," and to awake with the intention to make each day the very best.

As much as we hope to convey this attitude to our staff and customers, we recognize that David is special, so we'll do our best to remember his example and hope that NYC hasn't seen the last of this lovely man. We'll miss you, David, but like a cloud or a butterfly we can't hold onto you forever. Now enjoy the day. Go out there and have fun!

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.

Meet the Farmers: Joshua Littlefield

Irving Farms - Meet the Farmers

This week we send two of our best to compete in the Big Eastern Coffee Championships in Durham, NC. Brandon Epting (a North Carolina native) will be competing in the Brewers Cup, and Joshua Littlefield will represent Irving Farm in the Barista Competition where he promises to present a drink inspired by "Top Gun" with notes of "The Danger Zone." Irving Farm's John Henry Summerour braved this insanity to chat with Josh at Bluestone Lane over items of Australian whimsy such as the Flat White, the Piccolo, an Avocado Smash and the PLAT. And Josh interrupted John mid-bite to take an aerial photograph of the spread, because he just can't help himself when the lighting is good.

When you meet Josh, you're meeting Irving Farm's new Director of Education and former wholesale wunderkind. You're meeting a volunteer firefighter and the volunteer/event coordinator for the Spring St. Social Society. You're meeting a graduate of Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts, someone who studied wine in southern Germany and harvested seaweed in southern Ireland, an only child from Long Island who abandoned his video games to start working in kitchens when he was 14 years old, the type of college student who commuted from Providence to Boston every week to perform with the Trinity Church Choir. You're meeting a nephew who goes sky diving with his aunt, an individual who drags espresso pallets home to build furniture with a circular saw in his kitchen just for the hell of it, a donut aficionado/maniac, a twofold biker (he has a bicycle AND a '74 Honda motorcycle). You're meeting pure energy.

A self-described "lazy shit" as a child in suburbia, most dinners consisted of fast food and junk. He began washing dishes for the Viking Culinary Center in Garden City and was quickly promoted as the chef's assistant for classes. This experience, paired with a culinary focus in high school through the Nassau BOCES program, turned him onto the world of food and the sense of family that can be attained through restaurant work.

Meet The Farmers

After moving to Providence, his roommate introduced him to the joys of coffee, so he decided to add a side concentration on wine and non-alcoholic studies to complement his focus in culinary nutrition. Within a few years, he managed to work as a barista for Seven Stars Bakery in Providence as well as Intelligentsia and Joe in NYC (where he took time away from school to create his own internship). He even convinced Johnson & Wales to sponsor him for barista competition which was a first for them. Josh is like that - his unbridled enthusiasm strikes the right balance between overwhelming and approachable. On a recent coffee crawl with Irving Farm, Josh was joined by over 15 baristas on a dangerously caffeinated journey through West Side coffee haunts, and he fully inhabited the role of the Pied Piper of Espresso, leading his motley crew with smiles and jokes, snapping pictures and even incorporating a taco break.

Tacos. Donuts. Espresso. Photography. Adventure. Controlled chaos.

Meet the Farmers

Does he sleep? It isn't unusual to find Josh training new baristas late on a weekday or early on the weekend. And then, magically, he'll appear upstate at a food & wine conference manning a pop-up coffee bar, or donning his fire-retardant gear to climb into the equivalent of "Hoarders on fire." Even his account of staying at the Point Lookout firehouse with his crew of Tower Ladder 254 during Superstorm Sandy as the waters rapidly poured forth is tinged with wonder and the satisfaction that he was able to help others. He claims to only need 3-4 hours of sleep—that his love for coffee is the only energy he needs—so it isn't surprising that he cites Irving Farm's other force of nature, Teresa von Fuchs, as a major inspiration. When asked if he's at all concerned about the danger of burnout, he makes a compelling argument for putting ample time and energy into his coworkers so that they can offer him stronger support in return. Fire begets fire.



When you meet Josh, you're meeting the future of the coffee industry, perfectly embodied by the poetic contrast between his dapper clothing and his rough, worn hands. You're meeting vivid enthusiasm matched by a keen understanding of the endless opportunities within this dynamic, booming community. Dream it up and make it happen. Sleep when you're dead. One day, he plans to expand his passion for education to include green coffee buying or owning a business, and he'd like to teach himself letterpress printing so that he can make an impression, literally. And on March 25th of next year he'll turn... 24.

But to be fair, a list of Josh's varied and bountiful accomplishments is slightly misleading, because the most impressive thing about him is that he has the ability to pause the whirlwind so that he's totally present, moment to moment. Even when he interrupts a meal to take a picture, it's executed with the utmost courtesy, and the goal is clear—to elevate a single moment and capture it in time, to consider it, to marvel, to share a tiny breath before the electricity of life rushes back in, much like Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell catching a moment of zero gravity in his fighter jet before diving into the Danger Zone with that toothy, Tom Cruise grin. It's entirely possible that Josh is constantly accompanied by a stealth Kenny Loggins soundtrack. The nice folks in Durham better brace themselves for this sweet NYC dynamo.

Be sure to watch live at http://uscoffeechampionships.org/watch/ to see Josh compete on Saturday, 11/22, at 11:30am!

Meet The Farmers: Liz Dean

Meet the Farmers - Liz Dean

Irving Farm's John Henry Summerour sits down with Liz Dean, Manager of our 79th Street cafe, to discuss nature, coffee, crime, education and life. There seems to be a formative experience in Liz Dean's childhood, a distant memory not pinned down by a specific date or singular event, but one that exists in a dream state, floating along the liquid timeline that links one's birth to the moment when life gets colored in with bolder lines and harder edges. Liz was born in Albuquerque, NM, where she lived until she was 6 years old. Her early childhood memories are dotted with green chiles, mountain hikes, hot air balloon festivals and hard rains, after which the toads would sing into the night as worms slowly rose to the earth's surface. Her mom would take Liz and her sister into the backyard where they'd collect worms and feed them to the hungry toads. This connection to nature, its structures and systems, the unspoken order of things, established a lifelong relationship to curiosity and discovery. 

Liz Dean - Irving Farm

Liz is a seeker, which is easy to understand when you consider her father's vivid trajectory, both personal (born in Pittsburgh; lived in Lexington, MA; moved to New Mexico; studied at Tulane and Cornell) and professional (stockbroker, corporate lawyer, yoga instructor, contributing writer for Feminism & Religion). Her practical nature might be passed down from her mother, a book designer at Columbia University Press, who was raised by immigrant parents escaping North Korea and settling in Missouri—at the suggestion of an American colonel—where they reared seven children. 

Liz Dean

When Liz moved from New Mexico to Ithaca, the worms and toads were replaced by crayfish and neighboring forests inhabited by Romanian and Polish farmers who would catch rabbits with their bare hands to share with Liz and her sister. Conversation in the Dean household circled around philosophy, spirituality and the social responsibility of privilege, while the rooms bustled with dogs, cats, guinea pigs, birds, frogs (one of which is still living and nearly 20-years-old) and a diaper-wearing duck that was in love with their 120 lb German Shepherd. She started riding horses and participating in eventing. She began drinking coffee in high school because that's what adults did. Her determination to achieve led her to the hallowed campus of Mount Holyoke where she majored in Sociology and Philosophy. It was at Rao's Coffee, in the Holyoke library atrium (modeled after the Medici Library in Florence, Italy), that she began to understand coffee as a meeting ground, a tool for discussion and debate, an experience that is linked to community and aesthetics as much as flavor. Her ideals brought her to New York City to participate in the Teach For America program where she led high school ESL classes for two years, but after she was asked to give passing grades to absentee students just to keep them moving through the system (among many other institutional compromises which prioritized numbers over learning) the disillusionment proved too great. Liz began walking dogs in an effort to simplify her life and reconnect to a love of animals. Two of her clients, a pit bull and a Bernese Mountain puppy, lived in Gramercy Park, and even though she was walking up to eight dogs, she was having trouble making ends meet. A friend recommended that she check out 71 Irving Place for good coffee, and she quickly developed a ritual of ordering a small coffee and bagel with butter which would constitute her breakfast and lunch for the day. It wasn't long before she heard they were hiring... 

Liz Dean - Irving Farm

It's not unusual for customers to cross the line and start working behind the counter, nor is it odd for your average barista to possess countless stories and complex histories as she crafts your drink. What's unusual is that the coffee industry is no longer a pit stop for people who are trying to figure out the next step. Liz is now managing our 79th Street cafe where she's vigilant about sourcing local, quality ingredients. She attends community board meetings to create a bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue. She travels to barista competitions all over the country. She even helps one of her regulars by walking his dog. Most unexpectedly, she recently worked with the NYPD to apprehend neighborhood thieves, going above and beyond her duties as the manager of a coffee shop. Sometimes life can seem like a collection of disparate puzzle pieces, lacking a cohesive or linear structure, but Liz's journey is the embodiment of existence as a work in progress, each experience informing the next, the collective whole reflecting a deep engagement with exploration and the application of lessons learned. 

Liz Dean

This summer she was sitting outside the cafe taking a break from payroll, and for a moment she looked off, quietly considering a thought, and then she said, "I like to feel like I'm part of something," calling to mind the image of her pinching those wet, wriggling bodies and extending them to the open, croaking mouths in that New Mexico night, making a direct link to the substance of life, the song of survival.

Meet the Farmers: Ugo

Meet the farmers Ugo
 

Who are you? I'm Ugo. They call me Google, sometimes... only sort of endearingly.

How long have you been at Irving Farm? In one capacity or another, I've been here a little over four years.

What position did you start in? I was first hired to work behind the counter at 56 Seventh Ave—a cafe that we closed a couple years ago—making sandwiches. I trained to become a barista but never made it full time. Let's just say that, at that time, you wouldn't have wanted me on the espresso machine during a morning rush hour on Seventh Avenue. I wouldn't have cut it.

But you could cut sandwiches in half! What's your role now? More recently, I've taken on the role of Director of Technology. Here, at least, that's an over-glorified computer geek. I'm the person most willing to take on the computer headaches around the company. I guess I'm the person, also, who—probably most annoyingly—brings up all the new gadgets and apps and new ways of doing things that I'd like everybody to try out. Yup. That's me! But seriously, my workdays are mostly spent planning, upgrading, and maintaining the IT infrastructure across all the Irving Farm locations. Given the various wholesale and retail operations of the company, I get to work on a really wide range of projects, and in several different environments. It's been especially cool to work with Steve and Muffin in the building and renovations of Irving Farm cafes. Over the course of about a year-and-a-half, after closing up shop on Seventh Avenue, the company expanded its retail presence from one cafe to five. In that same time frame, we also executed a complete rebranding of the company and rolled out a new website. Irving Farm has changed drastically, over the past few years. So, my primary responsibility has been to make sure that Irving Farm's technological capabilities (i.e., all the things) keep up with all of the company's changing needs. It's been great having such variety in my work here, and it's great having a hand in providing for experiences that people tend to love.

What was your first coffee job? I worked for a small cafe back home in Alabama, for maybe a year. I think we bought coffee from some Seattle roaster. At the time, my palate could only discern the difference between coffees from Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and Dunkin Donuts. The term "specialty coffee" wasn't really in my lexicon. So, I can't really comment on the quality of coffee we served, but it was a great little mom and pop shop.

What's your favorite coffee right now? We just got a new crop of the Amaro Gayo, that s--- is delicious!

What's your favorite way to prepare it? Iced pour over! It's better than iced tea + lemonade on a hot summer day. But maybe I've just been away from Alabama for too long...

What do you love about Irving Farm or your role? I've loved being able to sort of define a role, and be a part of a company that's growing and willing and able to do new things. It's not just trying to remain what it is, what it has been. And I guess the first year or so that I was with the company I could definitely see that big things were going to happen--I just couldn't really tell how or when. Since things really kicked into high gear over the last couple years, it's been pretty demanding. With exciting things on so many horizons, there's always lots to do. It's been great to be part of that, and part of an organization that's not just trying to roll out cookie cutter cafes and coffee. Also, Irving Farm is the most diverse place that I've worked. When I was a kid, I wanted to live in New York City to be immersed in the most diverse mix of people in the country. That remains a priority for me, and Irving Farmers really represent a broad range of ages, ethnicities, genders...basically, we represent the whole spectrum here. Irving Farm has always felt like a company with opportunities for everyone. Steve and David lead the team with that openness. And everyone here really is much more interested in who's willing to help build things and get the job done than in who someone is and where someone comes from. Irving Farm's diversity is probably one of its more unsung virtues.

When you were 5 what did you want to be when you grew up? Probably a firefighter, like every other kid, because that s--- is cool! Other than that, from relatively early on, I really liked drawing things, and I always had an idea that I would design things. I was always drawing cars and soccer cleats. I didn't really know what a design or a designer was when I was five. But I guess if I could retroactively articulate what I geeked out about most back then, I would've thought I'd be doing something in the world of product design. In fact, my mom recently reminded me that I used to daydream about biomedical engineering and designing prosthetic limbs. I guess I've always been a geek for new technology. I was a very hands-on kid.

What do you do outside of work/coffee? I've played soccer all my life. Liverpool is a little like church for me. In fact, it's about time for my quadrennial month-long sabbatical... I also love riding bikes, and I try to go camping as much as possible. My partner and I would probably live in the woods pretty much full-time, if we could both work from a remote "office." The city's great, too, of course. It's an endless—and exhausting—source of fun. And there's great coffee seemingly everywhere these days. That can't be taken for granted... although, I know this question was about not-coffee.

What's your favorite embarrassing story about David or Steve? Weirdly enough, I can't really recall stories that are embarrassing for Steve and David. They're pretty easygoing dudes, even in seemingly stressful situations. But I know some stories that are a bit embarrassing for me. I'll try to keep it short and sweet with this one: I mentioned at the beginning a royal they who sometimes call me Google. That's meant much less as a compliment than as a reminder that with most new ideas, I'm probably flying solo in my enthusiasm for experimenting with new tech in new approaches to our work. Probably my first big undertaking that affected everyone across the company was leading Irving Farm to go Google a few years ago. Sure, Google Apps wasn't really new technology then. By that time, there were still a number of people in the company whom I hadn't yet met in person. But I sure got familiar really quickly with everyone via feedback on the new services—or, as they probably referred to them, the new headaches. Everyone eventually got around the learning curve with the new apps. And I had to quickly get around the learning curve of providing personalized, and often in-person, tech support for a whole organization, albeit a small organization. Nowadays, everyone's been collaborating via the core suite of apps for the past few years as naturally as though they'd been using them all along. Overall, it's been a big win for Irving Farm. So, I guess I don't mind the nickname.

If one of our coffees was your spirit animal which one would it be? Why? How is it prepared? Rainforest Foundation Project, just because it's a cool initiative. The blend was born out of a connection David has to the Foundation in the US, and the intention behind it is to draw attention and support to the protection of the environments from which the coffees in the blend come to us. The last time we were camping, we were drinking Rainforest Foundation Project brewed on a stainless Kalita dripper under a torrential downpour of rain and talking about jaguars in the Amazon—it was a very rain-themed camping trip.

Do you have a dream coffee job, at Irving Farm or in any other part of the coffee world? As confusing and challenging as it has been doing what I've been doing for the past couple years, I've only come to like it more and more. The only ways to make it better would be to have more resources and more of a team behind the technology side of the business. It's not that there's anything particular to coffee to which technology lends itself. Most small businesses that are trying to grow right now can definitely avail themselves of more technologies that can allow them to work more efficiently and less expensively. It would be great to have more time and resources to figure out really excellent solutions for a lot more of the work that goes on throughout the company. Those are things I like to solve—those seemingly small efficiency problems that add up to big gains. While I'm not very efficient with so many things around here—remember, you don't want me on an espresso machine in the middle of a rush—I really love observing the way everything works together and helping to improve processes wherever I can.

What's your favorite treat at the stores? I'm really happy we started carrying almond milk. I'm lactose intolerant, so I drink almond cappuccinos all the time now! We also have really great producers throughout the company. So it seems the cafes always have new treats to try that are made in-house. There's currently a tie for my favorite: it's between Faryl's spicy hot chocolate brownie, a relative newcomer, and the o.g. face-sized crispy rice treat. Pair either of those with a coffee, and I'm set!