Coffee, Cacao & Connection

 

Talnamica Irving Farm Raaka

Freddie, Cecil, Nena, and Carlos at Talnamica, 1961.

In preparation (and excitement) for our evening of coffee & chocolate pairings with Brooklyn’s Raaka Chocolate, we sat down with Nena Méndez, whose family farm in El Salvador—Talnamica—is featured in our limited edition chocolate bar inspired by the flavors of Salvadoran horchata. Her family has been in the coffee business since the 1880s, and they’ve just begun to venture into cacao. Her daughter, Mayita, has worked for Irving Farm as a barista at our 79th St. cafe (which just won Best Coffee Shop on the Upper West Side from Time Out New York’s readers!) and now represents our wholesale team.

We would love to know about your experience growing up in a coffee farming family.

The family spent every weekend in Talnamica. My father walked the farm and some of my four siblings would go with him and the farm manager. I loved those long walks with him. They could last from two to four hours. During the long walks we would encounter the houses of the “colonos” [resident workers]. We would stop and chat. My father knew the names of all and was very chummy with them. He had spotted a pair of twins living on the farm, so he asked the parents if they could come and play with my sister and I. To this day when we see one of them (the other twin moved away) we hug tightly and remember how much fun we had as little girls.

Talnamica Raaka Irving Farm

What is the story and history behind Talnamica specifically?

My father bought this farm in the 1950s. By marrying my mother he became in touch with growing coffee, as it is from her side of the family that we have been in the coffee business since the 1880s, and he fell in love with the bean. My father was a very successful lawyer during the week, but on the weekend he would transform himself into a “cafetalero” [coffee farmer] and enjoy the people, the land. He loved plants and flowers. He collected interesting specimens from all over the world and brought them to the farm. His favorite flowers were orchids and camellias. My mother would spend her time reading Agatha Christie, Reader’s Digest and historical novels. Gradually he continued buying neighboring lots until it became what it is today. He fixed community roads, built houses for all the colonos and brought them electricity and access to water.

Talnamica Irving Farm Raaka

Nena’s father, Alfredo Ortiz Mancia, on the Talnamica farm.

At what point did your family begin interacting with the specialty coffee industry?

Four years ago the government coffee agency asked if any coffee growers would be interested in hosting a luncheon for the jurors for the Cup of Excellence who were meeting in the country at the time. We had about forty jurors for lunch. Seattle-based roasters who had come to the luncheon contacted us some time after. They were our first buyers of single origin. We were delighted! Two years ago I was walking along Irving Place, saw this charming coffee place, and to my surprise I saw that coffee from El Salvador was being sold there! I chatted with the nice baristas and asked who the coffee buyer was. This led me to meet Dan Streetman and the rest is history! On his next trip to El Salvador, Dan stayed with Mayita and me in Talnamica. My older brother, Freddie, joined us in walking the farm. We ate, drank and chatted all evening and, yes, he got some beans for Irving Farm. It has made us appreciate the value of what we have. It has made us want to continue working the farm in spite of many occasional challenges—low prices for the coffee, heavy damaging rains, strong damaging winds, and diseases such as roya [coffee leaf rust].

Talnamica Raaka Irving Farm

Dan Streetman at Talnamica

When did the farm start growing cacao?

The cacao experiment is grown at another altitude. We still have not harvested any yet!

What is one of your funniest memories from your time on the farm?

There was a time when my father wore a scary mask and walked into the “cafetal” [coffee farm] where the workers were doing their job. When one of them saw him, he was about to strike my father with his machete! My father quickly took off the mask and said, “Miguel! Soy yo!!” This was not Halloween time—no one was celebrating Halloween in the country then—it was just my father’s quirky sense of humor! Everyone laughed hysterically after they all realized it was my father.

Do you have any memories of drinking horchata in El Salvador?

Yes! Horchata is a drink that is offered in almost any coffee shop in the country, but it is also the staple beverage at all First Communions.

Talnamica Raaka Irving Farm

What is your favorite part of the coffee growing process?

It’s meaningful to know that we, the siblings, are the fourth generation of coffee growers. Mayita, Natalia and their cousins are now part of the fifth, and Natalia’s kids the sixth! It’s a sense of pride to be part of a tradition which has given our little country an identity. Especially important is the fact that we offer jobs to people. During the harvest, it is a lot of fun to see women and men taking pride in the beans they have collected.

What is your hope for the future of the coffee farm?

Whenever Dan buys our coffee, each time we go to Irving Farm and see the bags on the shelves, I feel so happy for all of us, but also for my parents. My father loved the farm and he would be so happy to see that its beans are valued. This is our hope, to continue being able to give jobs to people in the community, to continue growing the best tasting beans ever!

Raaka_Talnamica

Please join us on Saturday, December 13th, at the Raaka Chocolate factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where you’ll get to meet Nena, her sister Cecil, and Mayita while sampling a delicious assortment of small batch coffees and chocolates. Tickets and further information can be found here.

Meet the Farmers: Joshua Littlefield

Josh Littlefield Irving Farm Coffee

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.

Josh Littlefield Irving Farm Coffee

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.

Josh Littlefield Irving Farm Coffee

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.

Josh Littlefield Irving Farm Coffee

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.

lasercatjosh

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!

Book Nook With Teresa von Fuchs

 

Teresa Von Fuchs Irving Farm Coffee

When Irving Farm’s Director of Wholesale, Teresa von Fuchs, told us that she wanted to write a piece for the blog inspired by a French book from the ’70s, we said, “Bring it!” Teresa is a mold breaker and a big inspiration for many people in the coffee industry. Here she reflects on literary theory, wine geekiness and, of course, her love of coffee.

I have always been a voracious reader. My mother joked that she often chided me to put the book down and go play outside.

In college, I was a writing and literature major. I dove deep into pulling apart reading, looking in between the words, thinking about context and authorial bias, about otherness and narrative point of view. New ideas bubbled up everywhere.

Toward the end of my last Literary Theory class, we were assigned The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes. While it is about what the title might imply, it became more important for me as I grew and my span of reading grew. Initially, the book reminded me that part of what had drawn me to reading in the first place was the joy. Some of that joy had been lost in my learning to analyze reading and writing.

I was happily reminded of The Pleasure of the Text‘s ideas when Irving Farm’s green coffee buyer, Dan Streetman, insisted I read Eric Asimov’s How to Love Wine. While Streetman is a much bigger wine geek than I am, he said what moved him most about the book was that it encapsulated how he feels about coffee: It’s delicious. Appreciate it. Share it with others. Repeat. What’s refreshing and so exciting about Asimov’s book is not that he’s so knowledgeable or has so many years and such breadth of experience with wine, which he does. It’s that he’s most interested in sharing his joy in wine with you, his reader.

Part of my role at Irving Farm and as a coffee professional in general is to dissect what I’m tasting in the cup and why it tastes that way. That goes for crazy delicious tastes as well as off-putting flavors. What both Barthes’ and Asimov’s books reminded me is that though my role is to take coffee seriously, there’s still plenty of room to enjoy it. I can use my knowledge to take pleasure in each cup and to not forget to share my love along with my knowledge.

One of the things that moves me most about coffee is thinking about all the people that had a hand in its existence before it ever gets to mine. Taking a moment each day to immerse myself in that wonder, or better yet, share that wonder with others, only adds to the pleasure in the cup. And pleasure need not be divorced from seriousness. It should enhance it.

Welcome Back TNT Season!

TNT NYC Irving Farm

The new season of TNT (Thursday Night Throwdown) kicks off tonight at Cafe Grumpy, so we sat down with two of the organizers—Maciej Kasperowicz, Director of Coffee for Gregorys, and Bailey Rayne Arnold, their Director of Education—to learn more about what goes into a throwdown, why coffee peeps love to drink beer and spill milk together, and why you might like to join in the festivities.

TNT NYC Irving Farm Cafe Grumpy Halloween

What is a TNT?

MK: It’s a Thursday Night Throwdown, and it’s a magical night during which baristas get together, pour a bunch of latte art, and occasionally win prizes. More importantly (though some of our more competitive competitors might disagree), it’s an easy way to get a bunch of people from a local, specialty coffee community together to hang out, make friends, build relationships and the sense of community that helps make working in this industry so much fun.

BA: According to Google, a “throwdown” is “a performance by or competition between rappers, breakdancers, etc.” (I guess we fall under “etc.”) Another definition refers to a display or contribution of something; to throw down skills/expertise/knowledge, or funds for something. Spinning this in a direction that would be useful in this case, I’d say a TNT is a performance by baristas (and other coffee professionals alike) in which they face off against one another, displaying their expertly honed techniques of pouring textured and heated milk into espresso. 32 people enter, and 1 person leaves. (In the future maybe we should incorporate Thunderdome into the acronym, though I’m sure Maciej would have some technical reason to disagree.)

Who are the judges, and how are they selected?

MK: The judges are usually picked from previous winners, members of our organizing committee, representatives of sponsors and/or hosts, and people we pick out of the crowd who we know will do a good job. We don’t have a screening process, though we do have some basic criteria all the judges should follow at some point.

BA: We attempt to have a three-person judging panel: One judge a representative from whatever venue the TNT is held at, the previous month’s champion, and someone else (could be an organizer, could be a sponsor, could just be a random buddy who can’t tell a rosetta from a swan). The judges don’t necessarily need to meet any qualifications (except probably, like, just don’t be a jerk), but we try to make clear the judging criteria to each person, make sure there will be both men and women on the panel, and there won’t be two judges representing the same company/coffee shop.

Why is it important for coffee folks to spend time together drinking beer and spilling milk?

BA: It’s really important to have a multitude of platforms upon which to share information and experiences and joys and struggles and knowledge in our industry, and the more diverse (and FUN) those platforms, the better! There will always be cuppings, tastings, conferences, and trade shows—and there should always be throwdowns as well. Coffee people are the most fun people!

MK: I feel as we make efforts to grow into a more mature, successful industry, the idea that we’re all supportive of each other—and we get along, share information and get drunk together—sounds a little wide-eyed and naive, but I also think it’s as important as ever. That’s not to say that there isn’t competition in specialty coffee, and that’s not to say that everyone likes (or even should like) each other, but that spirit of community is, for me, a big factor in why I like working in coffee, and I think regular get-togethers help foster that.

Maciej, is it true you keep stats? Is there some inside betting ring involved?

MK: So yeah, at the beginning of the season I try to keep all the brackets and sign-up sheets, and develop some basic stats (total wins, winning percentage, wins per throwdown).

BA: There’s definitely an inside betting ring, but all of the profits go to Coffee Kids. (JK, we’re honest organizers!)

How much money did the community raise for Coffee Kids last season?

MK: $1,619 for Coffee Kids, $585 for the Monkey and the Elephant in Philly and $1,265 for Project ALS (that last one largely due to the Herculean efforts of Sam Penix). Sooooooo many awesome sponsors and people helped us.

What’s your favorite pour?

MK: I tend to be most impressed by rosettas cuz, while I can pour a decent tulip, I am truly awful at rosettas. But a nicely rounded tulip in a tiny cup always makes me happy, too.

BA: The elusive, perfect rosetta, where the base comes back around to the top of the cup, there’s a heart on top, and spaces between the leaves. F*ck all this drunken tulip sh*t! Rosettas forever!

Anything else?

BA: Uhhh, tattoos? We freakin raffled off tattoos. That was pretty rad.

TNT NYC Irving Farm

The TNT season kicks off again tonight, Tuesday, with a very special Tuesday night pre-Halloween Throwdown at the Cafe Grumpy roastery, 199 Diamond Street, Brooklyn.

Meet the Regulars: Trisha Patterson

Tricia Paterson Irving Farm Coffee Latte Art

A few times per week we’ll see a picture of a customer’s morning latte posted to Twitter or Instagram, and it’s a nice compliment to know that our coffee is being showcased as an expression of someone’s joy or comfort or nostalgia or basic functional coherence. And then there’s Trisha Patterson. Director of Local Ad Sales for Fox News Channel, Trisha commutes to work from Larchmont, NY, and she fuels up at the Irving Farm Coffee Grand Central kiosk almost every day, with nearly every visit accompanied by a pic. If latte art could talk, each picture might represent a different facet of her personality: Former dog trainer, craft beer aficionado, sports enthusiast (Yankees, Cubs, Northwestern Wildcats, US Rowing National Team), lover of Megpies lemon tarts, Labrador owner, toddler chaser, angry rock listener (Linkin Park, Queens of the Stone Age, Tool) or self-professed Trekkie. In life, Trisha believes the glass is always half full, and judging from her Twitter feed, every glass is topped with love.

Introducing Las Penas!

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

You’re in your kitchen, barely awake or clothed, with a bag of Irving Farm coffee standing between an Auto-drip and French press, as though choosing between two lovers. Which one will it be? What are you in the mood for? Which brewing method will produce the perfect cup to make more important decisions seem far less complex than this one?

Add to this the layers and layers of factors that determine how your coffee tastes. You can take the same varietal and plant it on two different continents, or in two different countries, or two regions within the same country, or two farms in the same region, or one farm at different elevations. But what if you took the same coffee and planted it on the same farm at the same elevation and the only difference is that you took the harvest and dried half in the sun as is—just a beautiful, plump coffee cherry catching some rays—and the other half with only the skin removed? How different could the taste possibly be once the beans are roasted and brewed? 

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters La Pena

We’re very lucky to offer you the chance to taste this difference with our brand new Nicaraguan coffees, La Pena Miel and La Pena Natural. This Yellow Catuai variety is grown in northern Nicaragua, near the Honduras border, by Luis Alberto Ballardez. When he dries the coffee au naturel, the sugars from the fruit and skin migrate directly into the seed, producing a very concentrated flavor profile, so La Pena Natural explodes with the intensity of Pixy Stix. It provides a delightful jolt, much in the same way dried fruit can really zing and pop.

Since La Pena Miel is dried with the skin removed, but the sticky mucilage in tact, it’s considered a “pulp natural” or “honey” process. The sugars from the fruit still infuse the seed with sweetness, but it produces a more refined cup in which the deeper notes of chocolate and almond can come through.

Both Las Penas are dynamic and full of personality, and it’s fun to taste firsthand how incredibly unique the same coffee can present under slightly different drying processes. Some days call for the relaxed familiarity of La Pena Miel, and others need La Pena Natural to dance around in that red party dress to get things going.

Your mornings just got way more interesting, and don’t worry, the Auto-drip and French press will be thrilled to have both Las Penas sisters in your cup.

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

Ask Us About Our Black Eagle

Irving Farm Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle

One of the best things about making a job out of something as fun as coffee is that everyone understands how important the toys are. We won’t deny it—getting our hands on the newest and sleekest equipment sends a little thrill up the collective spines of everyone at Irving Farm, and even more so when we’re part of a select few stores able to put new coffee equipment to the real-world tests of demanding NYC customers.

Irving Farm Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle

Our busy Upper West Side cafe got a special treat this spring when we welcomed a state-of-the-art espresso machine, the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle manufactured by Nuova Simonelli, known to many only by reputation and legend. Only about two dozen Black Eagles have landed in cafe environments right now, and we’re still reeling from the joy of its quality-of-barista-and-cafe-life improvements like consistent pressure and temperature stability, energy-saving, auto-cleaning, and low maintenance.

Irving Farm Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle

Barista experience—from ergonomics to our ability to work better, faster—has been enlightening and humbling. And for the customers? Seeing the renewed passion we have for combining our own great ingredients—coffee we truly care about—and beautiful tools that constantly evolve, making it easier for us to showcase the inherent beauty in the coffees we’re presenting.

And, hey—we’ll admit it. It’s one hot and steamy conversation piece.

Irving Farm Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle

Irving Farm Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle Irving Farm Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle

Check out the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle at our 224 W. 79th Street cafe in New York City, or on the competition stage at all of this year’s United States Barista Championship regional and national events!

 

Irving Farm and Crown Maple at Madava Farms Celebrate National Coffee Day!

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

We’ll see you at Grand Central on Monday, September 29th, to celebrate National Coffee Day!
#crowncoffee

Last month we got to visit Crown Maple’s Madava Farms in Dover Plains, NY, only 20 miles from our Coleman Station roastery. We’re excited to be partnering with them for National Coffee Day on Monday, September 29th, at our Grand Central Terminal location. Come visit us for a special coffee happy hour, 7-9am, or at any point during the day to sample our collaborative concoction, the Medicine Man. It’s the perfect flavor bridge between summer and autumn.

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

And if you find yourself in the Hudson Valley, make the effort to visit Madava Farms. Not only does Crown Maple produce a phenomenal product, but they’re gracious hosts and innovative artisans. Got a minute to look at our travel pictures? We know you do.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

The Crown Maple facility boasts an enormous mural by artist Sean Mellyn that captures a sense of sophistication and whimsy. No bears were spotted on our visit.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

Crown Maple features some of the most advanced, state-of-the-art equipment in the world of syrup production. It’s very common to boil the sap to remove water and increase the sugar concentration, but in an effort to be more fuel efficient, Crown Maple uses reverse osmosis for water removal.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

Ever wondered what it looks like when you tap a tree? It’s sort of like the tree is a maple donor, saving lives every day.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee DayYou can tour the production facility on most Saturdays and Sundays.

You can tour the production facility on most Saturdays and Sundays.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee DayNamed for the owners' daughters, Maddie and Ava, Madava Farms is situated on 800 bucolic acres of century-old sugar and red maples.

Named for the owners’ daughters, Maddie and Ava, Madava Farms is situated on 800 bucolic acres of century-old sugar and red maples.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

Chef Jacob Griffin and his culinary team are cranking out unbelievable food, including maple roasted almonds, maple glazed grilled peaches, a zingy maple mango chutney, and the standout – maple pearl encrusted goat cheese.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

There are typically only about 20 prime sap days per season, beginning around mid-February when temperatures in the Hudson Valley climb into the 40s during the day and dip below freezing at night, creating pressure inside the maples that naturally forces out the sap. The rest of the time the maples just hang out amid lush foliage and cool breezes.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

How much syrup does it take to build an impenetrable fortress?

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

Arguably the best part of the tour… Your tongue will meet the bottom of each tiny cup. We promise you that.

 

Crown Maple Irving Farm National Coffee Day

Along with their standard offerings of Light Amber, Medium Amber, Dark Amber and Extra Dark Syrup, the maple masters are always experimenting with something new. This is their limited edition syrup aged in bourbon barrels, an intoxicating combo that will bring you to your knees.

 

Planned your visit upstate to visit Madava Farms yet? Until then, don’t forget to catch our collaborative maple + coffee signature drink at Irving Farm Grand Central Terminal on National Coffee Day!

Meet The Farmers: Liz Dean

Meet the Farmers Liz Dean Irving Farm

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.

Meet the Farmers 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.

Meet the Farmers Liz Dean Irving Farm

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…

Meet the Farmers 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.

Meet the Farmers Liz Dean Irving Farm

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.

Faryl’s Fabulous Gluten-Free Granola Growlers

Irving Farm Coffee Granola Growlers

We’re thrilled to unveil our beautiful, refillable granola growlers, available for purchase at any of our Manhattan cafes. You can take home our homemade gluten-free granola—a crunchy dream featuring pecan halves and toasted coconut—in a stylish 14.5 oz. Weck Jar for $16. (And you can bring your empty jar back for a $3 discount on a refill.)

There’s nothing better than discovering talent within the Irving “Farmily” and helping employees develop new ways to shine. Read on to discover how an Irving Farm regular turned bad fortune into a delicious opportunity and became a self-made baking success!
Irving Farm Coffee Granola Growler

Faryl Amadeus did not grow up in the kitchen. Born in Kentucky and adopted into a liberal Jewish family in Brooklyn (she likens her father to Columbo), she danced with the Joffrey Ballet as a child before studying visual arts at New York’s esteemed LaGuardia High School. A lead role in A Chorus Line led her to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she trained at the Experimental Theatre Wing and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. At this point, baking was the furthest thing from her mind.

Flash forward to the last couple of years. Faryl was cast by Lynne Ramsay, one of the most admired young directors in international cinema, to portray a bad guy (and a boy) in a major film starring Natalie Portman. The production fell apart in spectacular fashion. Actors dropped out. Scripts were rewritten. Directors got replaced. Faryl’s role was cut, so she returned to New York, heartbroken and needing to figure out employment. Her husband (a TV writer whom she detested when they were kids but wound up marrying after four proposals) had been working out of our 79th Street cafe where they were neighborhood regulars. When she overheard that an employee was leaving, she jumped at the opportunity and wound up making sandwiches and baking biscuits with almost no prior experience.

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Around this time, Faryl decided to adopt a strict gluten-free diet as an experiment. One day, she was craving granola, so she researched multiple recipes, mulled over the science of taste and texture, dreamed up her ideal flavor combination, and wound up crafting some of the tastiest granola in NYC. She was so pleased with the results (as were the customers) she expanded her gluten-free explorations into a whole line of sweet treats, including the most decadent, slap-yo-mama-delicious dark chocolate brownies ever.

Irving Farm Coffee Granola Growlers

Photo courtesy of @farylamadeus on Instagram.

And the baking provided a welcome contrast to the ups and downs of a career in the arts. There’s a meditative quality to mixing the ingredients (beauty tip: Faryl uses the granola’s wet mixture as a moisturizer and exfoliant) and an instant gratification to having people enjoy her product (especially parents of gluten-free children). She can audition during the day and bake in the evening. Eventually she’d love to have an open bakery space where she can work while interacting with customers.

If you don’t catch her at the 79th Street cafe running up the stairs while balancing six trays of granola, or on the soccer field representing Irving Farm in the Coffee Kickball League, she just might be upstate where she and her husband are building a house on an old dairy farm. The Faryl Amadeus Adventure Train just won’t quit!

Faryl Amadeus Irving Farm Coffee Granola Growlers

Photo courtesy of @farylamadeus on Instagram.

Perhaps a serving of her granola will give you the extra pep to have your own adventures. Life has a funny way of opening unexpected doors. It’s up to us to dance on through.

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