STORIES


Local Roots | Local Farm Share Pick-Up

Live in New York City and sad about the lack of accessible farm stands? Cry no more, because you can get fresh, hyper-local, seasonal produce and meats in your own neighborhood.

Local Roots offers the option of subscribing to a season's worth of the goods along with information about the farmers you'll be buying from. A home delivery option is also available for the anti-social or over-scheduled.

Hosting a farm share pickup in our cafes offers us one more way to bring our philosophy into practice of committed partnerships with farmers producing the best products.

Local Roots hosts a happy hour every first Tuesday in our Upper East Side cafe. Chef Alejandro creates a recipe utilizing seasonal items available that day for everyone picking up to try and take a recipe card home.

Come to Happy Hour every first Tuesday
1424 3rd Ave

(Irving Farm recipe collaboration for happy hour using Local Roots produce)

Schedule your pickups here:

UES

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
1424 3rd Ave
Tuesday 5-7pm

Gramercy
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
71 Irving Place
Wednesday 5-7pm

Greenwich Village
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
78 W. 3rd St
Wednesday 5:30-7:30pm

 

Natamaya, El Salvador | Partner Spotlight

Committed, long-term partnerships are important to us, and our partnership with Natamaya is a great example of one.

In 2012, Nena Mendez, a 5th generation El Salvadoran coffee producer, walked into our 79th st cafe and noticed a mural from the farm next to her family farm, Finca Talnamica. She invited our green buyer, Dan Streetman, to visit the farm she owns with her husband Hermann, Natamaya, on his next trip to El Salvador.

In addition to the farm, Dan also got to see the Mendez family’s passion; a place in Juayua called Canton Ojo de Agua, where they have worked with the non-profit SQ Foundation to establish a school, living accomodations, soccer fields and a medical clinic.

Natamaya is named for Nena and Hermann’s daughters, Mayita and Natalia. In the 1950s their grandparents, Alfredo and Bessita Ortiz Mancia, purchased Natamaya’s sister farm, Finca Talnamica. Mayita started with Irving Farm as a barista at the shop that Nena originally visited and now is our Strategic Partnership manager and an integral part of our coffee team. All photos in this post are from her archives.

We donate $1 from each bag of Natamaya sold to support the SQ Foundation and their work in Canton Ojo de Agua. Donate here.

 

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Platanares, Honduras | Partner Spotlight

Platanares, named for the plantain trees that shade the coffee plants, is a farm in Copan, Honduras. It is owned by Jose Francisco Villeda Torres--known affectionately as Panchito--who is one of the founding members of Cooperativa Cafetalera Capucas Limitada (COCAFCAL), one of the most tightly organized co-ops in Central America.

Panchito lives on the Platanares farm, which he bought over 25 years ago, with his wife, his 4 daughters, and 3 grandchildren. He has slowly increased the size of his land from .5 manzanas to 3 manzanas (A manzana is roughly 1.7 acres). 

The autonomy of the farm and its journey from being a co-op member to trading directly is a cooperative success story. In 2011, Panchito entered a bag of coffee in the co-op’s competition and won first place. His coffee had improved 1 place per year in the competition until that year.

Since then he has grown to producing up to 30 bags a year and slowly built his micro-mill, improving it incrementally. We have bought his coffee every year since. In 2012, his trees were hit hard by leaf rust, but our green buyer committed to paying him a premium so that he could fight the rust and save his farm. The farm has made a full recovery and the quality is even better than before.

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Los Niños Process Experiments | Nena & Hermann tell the Talnamica story

The Los Niños Experiments from the Talnamica farm are an in-depth examination of the effect processing methods have on the flavor of a coffee. In coffee terminology a "process" describes the handling and removing of the fruit from the coffee bean (seed). Differences in processes affect the resulting flavor profile. In this experiment, we keep all other factors consistent and controlled to highlight the processes. Same variety, same farm, same mill, same-day harvest, five different processes. Our ability to produce these experiments is a testament to a committed partnership between farmer and roaster

Mayita Mendez, from our coffee team, sat down with producers Nena and Hermann (who are also her parents) to chat about the experiments and our partnership. Nena's family, the Ortiz siblings has owned the Talnamica farm for 4 generations.

 

 

When did you first start working with Irving Farm?

Nena- I was walking by Irving Place after a big birthday celebration in 2011. I saw the charming Irving Farm coffee and went inside, saw a photo from El Salvador and recognized the farm. I asked who the coffee buyer was and was put in touch with Dan Streetman. Soon we visited the roastery in Millerton and a couple of months later Dan came to El Salvador and started buying our coffee!


What has been unique or special for you about working with Irving Farm?

Nena- As a New Yorker AND a Salvadoran, what makes it special for me is that our coffees are sold in Irving Farms shops in New York! Irving Farm is part of the exciting coffee scene in this amazing city and it’s such a pleasure to see how much it’s grown.

What’s special about the experiments for me is our participation with teaching material for Irving Farm. We feel honored and very excited to be part of the education of staff and the general public. It is rewarding to know that people are learning about coffee with our beans.

Herman-
Our relationship with Irving Coffee has been unique thanks to Dan Streetman's (Irving Farm's green buyer) commitment to create and foster deep, strong bonds with us coupled with a continuous effort to improve that relationship. Every year he visits and tours the farms, looks at our new projects and how they affect the people of the community and the environment, visits the mills we work with and develop projects to understand quality and improve it, he tastes our best coffees and chooses the ones he wants for Irving's New York metropolitan clientele. We have gone so far as to experiment with the effects of processing on coffee flavor and quality. Our experiments are facilitated by our farm’s availability of abundant fruits ripening at the same time in the same lot. An outstanding testimony to our special relationship is that our daughter works with Irving Farm in NYC! We, as farmers of quality coffee fully feel that we are participants in this work.

 

 

What does it mean to you to be able to do these experiments every year?

Herman- It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun, it takes us from our daily harvesting routines into a special gala day. Guided by our farm manager, Miguel Angel, our best harvesters collect perfectly ripened fruits all at once, enough of them to run five separate mill processing methods.We wash the truck, we use only new immaculate white bags for the fresh coffee cherries. On that day the truck leaves the farm as early possible to arrive first to a mill that has also been cleaned to remove residue of all other coffees. 

As a producer what have you learned about your farm?

Herman- The lesson farming has taught us is that fruit ripening is directly correlated with quality.
With these experiments, I’ve learned that processes have a substantial effect on flavor that, coupled with perfect ripening, create a wider variety of notes, flavors, depth, sweetness and acidity. In the quest for quality, as a farmer I have been educated and enlightened by these results.
I’ve learned a lot about our field team and leadership, their commitment to excellence in producing and obtaining the best coffees. I have learned of the abilities, hard work, dedication, attitude, goodwill, and pride of our collaborators.
I have also been able to assess and compare the impact each type of process may have on the environment.

 

 

What are some of the challenges that you are facing?

Herman- We face great challenges that include price, pests, aging of the plantations, climate change, protection of the environment and the community. However, our work with Irving Farm helps us alleviate some of these challenges and move forward.

The single most important adversity that afflicts coffee growers worldwide is the international price of it. Coffee is being produced at a cost greater than the price. If we want to continue drinking our favorite beverage, the need to value the coffee at better prices is urgent. This affects all other challenges like combating the Roya disease and the Coffee Fruit Borer, renovating plantations so as to yield quality coffee and resist pests and climate change, maintaining shade trees and forests, protecting water sources, generating employment and providing a guarantee to new generations that coffee farming is a good and decent occupation.
The higher prices that Irving Farm pays for our specialty coffee help us balance the horrible prices paid by the international coffee market. There is a desire on our part to try to maximize the quality of the coffee to continue taking advantage of the better prices.

Agriculture is expensive, labor is expensive and our people and land are so dear. Without relationships like the one with Irving Farm we could not afford to do this.

 

 

How do you feel about continuing your parents legacy as a farmer?

Nena- I grew up going to Talnamica, we would spend the weekends there with my father, visiting the homes of the farm residents and workers. My father knew everyone by name, he had Christmas presents every year for everyone. We have people living on the farm that worked with my father and are now elderly and still remember him dearly.
We have a strong emotional attachment to the farm, we are so happy to continue my father's legacy. Hermann and I got married 47 years ago and he became enamoured with coffee and is now a crucial part of running our coffee business.
The volcanic lands of El Salvador yield spectacular coffee and I am proud to participate in that.

 


This year, with the partnership of the Talnamica farm, we are excited to offer 5 different process offerings in 4oz packages. You can buy all 5 for $25, or mix and match individual 4oz packs.  

Washed - Dried Cherry / Milk Chocolate / Plum
Washed Process coffee is depulped, fermented overnight, washed and then dried in raised beds.

Wild Honey - Pineapple / Cream Soda /Pilsner
Wild Honey Processed coffee is depulped, fermented overnight, and then dried in raised beds.

Honey - Granola / Maple / Marzipan
Honey Process coffee is depulped and then dried in raised beds.

Pulp Natural - Honey / Strawberry / Butter
Pulp Natural Process coffee is dried first as the whole cherry, then depulped and then dried a second time in raised beds.

Natural - Blueberry / Dark Chocolate / Coriander
Natural Process coffee is dried on raised beds as a whole cherry before being sent to the dry mill.

 

Alabaster Pizzo creates window illustrations for soon to come Greenwich Village Irving Farm


Our newest and largest café is set to open this August in Greenwich Village. While the Thompson St. & West 3rd shop is under construction, we hired cartoonist, illustrator, and Irving Farm alum Alabaster Pizzo to draw our window coverings.  

How did you decide on the different scenes depicted in your window illustrations?
wanted to show the vibrancy and diversity of the neighborhood. The "real world" places I chose were NYU's Gould Plaza, The Half Pint, and Washington Square Park's arch, fountain, dog park, and lawn.


Which scene was your favorite to draw?
Either the fountain because there's so much going on, or the corner with the bar because it was fun to translate the tiny details of a real building into a drawing. I wonder what the people who live in that building or work at the bar think of the drawing!


I love the illustration of everyone around the fountain in Washington Square: it perfectly captures the feeling of NYC when the sun is out. What's your favorite part about summer in the city?
I think it's so great that the city allows (or at least turns a blind eye to) people playing in the fountain. It's really a unique sight. New Yorkers often have very little private outdoor space, so the sidewalks and parks satisfy this need. I'm much more of a winter person, personally, but I do enjoy going to the city beaches, the extended hours of sunlight, and increased greenery.


Does the city influence your work? If so, how?
Yes! Inspiration is everywhere. I used the Instagram geo-tags for the real life locations I drew, because I wanted to see user-generated images of the locations instead of boring stock photos. A dense city is where you see people interacting with other people and infrastructure in the best ways possible. Of course my drawings are a little idealistic; everything is clean and everyone's getting along and having a nice day, but in a city as crowded and with as tough a reputation as New York, you can be surprised.


Did you try out any other color schemes before landing on orange, red, black, and mint? What led you to choose those colors?
I knew I wanted to pick a limited palette so I could keep the images bold. I always use a black outline, and actually, the colors I picked correspond with the labels of three Irving Farm single origins: Amaro Gayo, Natamaya and Musasa.





How Irving Farm Chef Danielle Dillon Is Elevating NYC Coffee Fare

by Maura Hehir, Communications Manager at Irving Farm

Chef Dani. Photo by Joshua Littlefield.

Not only is 26 year-old Danielle Dillon (formerly of La Vara, Txikito, El Quinto Pino, Tekoá, and Four & Twenty Blackbirds) revamping Irving Farm's food menu as our new Culinary Director, she’s committed to not trashing the planet in the process. Her Shakshuka on a Roll recently appeared in New York Magazine’s “8 Best Eggs on a Roll” feature, alongside sandwiches from Eggslut, Daily Provisions, and The Breslin — no small feat for a coffee shop breakfast. While she’s created a viral-sensation dish not even a year into her tenure at Irving Farm, she has also designed a menu abundant with seasonal produce, locally sourced dairy, and even honeycomb from Millerton, NY  home of our Roastery. Here we talk about her roots, what inspires her cooking, and her perspective on the current state of the food industry.

Maura: When did you first become interested in cooking?

Dani: I grew up in a very food-oriented home in the Berkshires, a community that’s really focused on local food. My grandmother always made a lot of awesome Puerto Rican food and my mom had a garden and cooked all the time. My mom also kept an extensive cookbook collection and tons of Gourmet magazines. I remember this one food column by Jane and Michael Stern in the old Gourmet that was about road food, and they would go on road trips to diners and stuff  kind of like a predecessor to Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I convinced my mom to let me cut out these articles and paste them into a binder. I loved to see these small places all over America doing regional food.

When I was 14 I got my first restaurant job, as a busser/dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant. I would go there after school and when I finished my shift, I’d do my homework there and then my parents would pick me up. And repeat!

When you went to college, did you study culinary arts?

No. I studied visual arts and art history at Barnard. I was cooking a lot in college, though: I got a job at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a bake shop in Brooklyn owned by two sisters. Everyone who was working there was awesome. They were all baking and doing all this hard work from scratch. I loved it so much.

Was that when you decided to try to become a professional cook?

It didn’t occur to me necessarily that this would be something I would do when I graduated. I’d just always been really involved in food, so I thought, this is another thing I can do while I’m at school. I was mainly interested in working in art galleries. When I graduated, I was applying for art jobs and still picking up shifts at the pie shop. That’s when I started to work more in the kitchen.

Charred Okra salad

 

Did you start off as a pastry chef?

The whole strange story about it is that during this time, my best friend and roommate was working at a restaurant in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn that had just opened -- it was La Vara, Alex Raij and Eder Montero’s restaurant. She was working there as a server and after I finished shifts at the pie shop I would stop by there. So I got to know their staff really well, and through those connections I began working as a prep cook. I started getting call backs from the galleries to come and interview, and I was like, “nope.” I decided I was going to keep cooking, because it really appealed to me on many different levels.

Who or what inspires you as a chef?

Definitely Alex Raij and Eder Montero, because they’re incredible chefs and I spent the longest time in their kitchens. They have such a unique way of looking at food and they work hard to make sure that the ingredients they’re using is of the highest quality. They have a real integrity to the food they put out. I also really love Ashley Christensen from Poole’s Diner in North Carolina. She takes the idea of diner food and comfort food and elevates it by using unexpected ingredients and methods of preparation. On the west coast, Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl is a big inspiration, with their idea of the “one plate.” At Sqirl, you don’t order courses, you order one thing, and on that one plate you have all sorts of exciting flavors and textures -- and all the ingredients are responsibly sourced. Which is basically the model that we used when we were thinking about Irving Farm’s new menu, because our customers aren’t coming in to order multiple courses -- just one dish. And that one dish has to wow.

There’s also a book that recently came out out called Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop. She investigates the ingredients and methods of preparation in China by looking deeply at the history and the people. So as a chef and a cook, Fuchsia Dunlop is someone else I’m really interested in.

How did you conceptualize the new Irving Farm food program?

When I was considering dishes for the new menu, one of the main things I wanted to do was try to use inspiration from the history of the City. So, for example, we have Milk & Burnt Honey on Toast, which is a nod to the Land of Milk and Honey -- inspired by the Jewish history and community on the Lower East Side. Same with the fermented black bean chili oil (which is actually made from soybeans): Chinatown and the history of the immigrant community there influenced that. I’m always searching for ways to draw from the culture and food styles of all the people that surround us in NYC, as well as from my own family’s culinary history. My all-time favorite nostalgic meal is my grandmother’s black bean recipe: the Matos Family black beans, which made their way onto the Irving Farm menu!

The Arepa, ft. Matos Family black beans

 

Can you talk to me about presentation?

Cooking and painting overlap in ways that surprise me all the time when I think about it. I studied oil painting, which is also very process-driven and tactile and sensory. I definitely try to make my platings artful without being too fussy. Like using tiny tweezers  that’s overkill. Mostly, I think of plating as creating a method to eat the meal. When I plate, or when I’m designing platings for dishes, I think about both the beauty of the plate and the utility of it for the guest. I want to make sure that someone eating it can get a bit of everything at once. I always keep the idea of the full bite in mind.

What are your thoughts on food quality in this country?

It’s something I think about a lot. On the one hand, the current number of people who are concerned about and willing to pay for quality ingredients is unprecedented, partly because it’s so “on-trend.” On the other hand I find that people’s concerns can be exploited by businesses. There are definitely places (not ones I’ve worked in) that will say that they’re doing the right, ethical thing when they’re not and they’re actually getting their food from crappy sources.

There’s also a tendency to prioritize poor-quality ingredients that customers are accustomed to over what’s actually in season. Like: yeah, you love strawberries. But you can’t get great strawberries in New York in the winter without the quality suffering or fossil fuel waste increasing. So we need to be really conscious about sourcing foods that are in-season that will give the customer a similar satisfaction, but that won’t come with such a big impact.

This is a way of eating that our grandparents and our great-grandparents would be familiar with. Forty or fifty years ago, people knew, “I can’t get a strawberry  they’re not growing right now!” or, “I can have strawberries, but they’re the ones I preserved.” So I think it’s funny when anyone calls it “elitist” to use produce that’s in-season, when it’s incredibly populist to eat what’s growing near you.

How are you bringing this perspective to Irving Farm?

Food quality, sustainability, eliminating waste: these are all things that I’m always thinking about. We’re a big group of restaurants, so I’m trying to work on the relationships we have with farmers and vendors. We’re so good about doing that with our coffee and our coffee sourcing, and we are applying that same philosophy to our food.

As I developed the menus I left a lot of flexibility for fresh produce. So you’ll often see language like “greens” or “seasonal fruit.” And that’s not because we’re trying to be trendy, it’s because genuinely, the fruit and vegetable seasons change so quickly and we want to be able to source great produce. And we might not know what’s available until the week of.

I’m also thinking about how we can use our account power to really benefit farmers. We have eight locations in total, soon to be nine. So say, kale really exploded this year and a farm we work with has a surplus they need to unload or else the produce will go bad. How can Irving Farm help them? Can we make that into something? An oil or a sauce or a soup? That’s a long-term project and goal because that doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s something we’ll definitely be working on actively.

Shakshuka on a Roll

 

What’s your all-time favorite meal to cook?

My favorite thing to cook is anything I want to eat myself. I always look to Central America for inspiration, because they use ingredients in a really awesome, fresh way. I also love Middle Eastern and Japanese food. I hate the word “fusion,” but I’m definitely inspired by different ways people around the world cook. Especially countries that might not have a ton of resources or access to certain ingredients  I love learning about all the ways in which they are creative with flavor.

  

Quickfire Proust’s Questionnaire

What is your current state of mind? Always anxious.

What is your most treasured possession? A rice pot that belonged to my great-great grandmother.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Do it well or don’t do it at all.

What is your greatest extravagance? High-end clothes. Or expensive knives.

Which living person do you most admire? I’m gonna go with bell hooks, at the moment.

What is your motto? You get what you put into it.

 

 

Shakshuka on a Roll makes NYMag's "BEST EGGS ON A ROLL" list!

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Exciting news, folks: our original Shakshuka on a Roll was recognized by New York Magazine as one of the top eight egg sandwiches in the city! Created by executive chef Danielle Dillon and sous chef Sophia Dean, this roll is an inventive riff on the North African breakfast, normally served with runny fried eggs in a skillet. Dani and Sophia conceived of the sandwich version in an effort to combine the flavors of shakshuka and the structure of the Mexican torta. Featuring spiced tomato sauce, plenty of fresh cilantro, soft-scrambled eggs, and Bulgarian sheep's milk feta on toasted ciabatta, the Shakshuka on a Roll is a must-try.

Dani and the April 17-30 issue of New York Magazine

What the F is the Q (and how did our Roastmaster pass it on his first try?)?

Ever since the "third wave" crashed on the shores of the coffee industry at the turn of the 21st century and specialty coffee roasters proliferated around the world, the "Q" has become a common term lobbed around in conversation among coffee experts. It's short for CQI Q Arabica Course & Examination, and those who pass it earn the most prestigious credential for coffee cuppers: the Q Grader license

Developed by the Coffee Quality Institute, the Q is an eight-section coffee-grading course that ends with a 22-test exam. It's an intense, arduous week of sensory exertion, only attempted by advanced coffee professionalsLike the bar or the Certified Sommelier exam, it often inspires existential dread and sickness-inducing anxiety.  Some people practice the sensory identification test with homemade solutions for weeks prior. Some will only eat plain foods the entire week of the Q to avoid polluting their palates. There are only roughly 4000 licensed Q Graders worldwide, and not only is it extremely difficult, it's extremely rare to pass after only taking the course once. 

Specialty coffee is a young industry, so the Q certification process is still somewhat shrouded in mystery and spoken about with an air of fear and respect. Since our very own roastmaster Clyde Miller recently passed the Q on his first try, we sat down and picked his brain about it.

First, could you just talk a little bit about how you became our roastmaster?

I didn’t know anything about roasting when I started working for the company. A job opened up at the Irving Farm café in town, so I was doing sandwiches, soups, stuff like that. Then I started working at the Roastery part-time, taking care of the lawn, and I quit my construction job. That progressed into also roasting part-time, and I learned more and eventually became the full-time roaster.

How did you get interested in the science and craft of roasting?

For the first five years of working for the company, I didn’t drink coffee. Right before Dan [Streetman, Irving Farm’s green coffee buyer] was hired, in 2010, we started doing small-batch roasting and more in-depth roast profiles. And then I quit smoking and started drinking coffee. At that time, I didn’t know what cupping was—I had none of that knowledge. My version of “cupping” was brewing a pot of the profile roast and comparing it against the two or three others that I had. Everything I did was trial and error. If it worked it worked, if it didn’t it didn’t.

So you were teaching yourself?

Basically yes. I didn’t have any classes. Just trial and error, and memory.

When and how did you actually become interested in testing to become a Q grader?

This year. I thought of it as just another notch. Once the Irving Farm lab was SCAA-certified, and I knew that the Q course was coming up, I asked Dan if there was anything I needed to do to prepare and he said to take the Taster’s Pathway. So I did that.

Could you explain how the Q works?

This Q course was for Arabica coffee; they have a separate course for Robusta. It’s a couple of days of classes, with general quizzes at the end of each day, and then an exam at the end of the course. If you pass the exam, you get your license to grade coffee. The exam goes through cuppings of washed-milds, naturals, etc. and it really attunes you to what can be found in the coffee: what to look for when you cup coffee, how to spot defects, and how to use your scoresheets without being biased to certain coffees. They also teach you how to grade a 350-gram sample of green beans and pull out the defects within a short timeframe.

Did you do anything to prepare before you take the course? 

The Taster’s Pathway really helped out because the knowledge was fresh from that course. But that was it really.

How did you feel during the Q? 

I felt okay. At one point, Candice [Madison, Q Instructor & Grader] told me to calm down, but that was during the general knowledge section. Everything else was fine. I cup more coffee doing quality control than I did at the Q.

To pass, do you have to have a perfect score?

No. I don’t know if anybody’s ever gotten one! Not everybody passes it in their first week either.

Most people don’t right?

90% of people don’t.

Now that you’re a Q grader, are there certain responsibilities?

I’m just licensed to grade coffee now. I have a three-year license, and then after three years I have to do a recall. It’s not as extreme as the actual test, it’s just to make sure your senses are still on point, basically.

Why was it important for you to take and pass the Q?

It helped me out with quality control, and it taught me how to look closely at the green bean. Now I’m able to spot more defects. You don’t need to have taken the Q to do a cupping and grade coffee, but it helps. It helped me.

Did you think you were going to pass in the first week?

No!

 

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