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

Ethiopia Diaries: Part I

Irving Farm’s Coffee Director, Dan Streetman, travelled to Ethiopia earlier this year as part of his ongoing coffee journeys. Here is the first installment of his adventures.

Ethiopia Tree

 

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, the only place on Earth where it grows wild. Coffee professionals speak with hushed excitement about traveling to this “mythical” place. Most ordinary people also get fairly excited about the prospect of traveling to Africa as well, a continent best known for its wildlife, home to elephants, giraffes and lions.

I too was swept with excitement at the prospect of traveling to Ethiopia, but at this point in my job, traveling 30-45 days out of the USA per year, I generally love being at the destination, and much less the getting there part. About a week before I left, everyone I talked to was saying “OH! that is so exciting,” and all I could think was, “It is going to be 27 hours on a plane…” However by 5am at the Amsterdam airport I was starting to feel excited, and by the time we landed in Khartoum, Sudan, our last stop before Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it had become a rush. 

St George Beer

St. George Ethiopian Beer

Two hours later we landed in Addis Ababa, and instantly my travel instincts started kicking in. Getting ready to clear customs, trying to ascertain how things were going to go etc. It turned out to be unnecessary: while looking disorganized, customs ran entirely smoothly, and I was let in without any hassle. My traveling partners and I had to wait for some other guests at the airport before catching the shuttle to the hotel, so we decided to grab a beer. There was only one choice, St. George.

 

Day 1
We headed to an export office, early in the morning, to meet our hosts and do some cupping. I was thrilled to bump into a colleague, Bruck, from my Q-cupper certification class. I had anticipated my first cupping in Ethiopia to be completely magical—I was hoping we would find many different coffees and new distinct profiles I had never tasted before. I knew that Ethiopia had several regions with which I was fairly unfamiliar, and was excited to see what these unknown coffees would taste like. It turned out to be less than magical—only the recognized regions delivered on their reputations. Overall, that first table was like many others I have experienced in other coffee-producing countries: even the pre-selected coffees proved to be mostly mediocre, some nice ones and only a few gems. I jotted down some notes, and asked about the rest of our travel itinerary. That afternoon we were going to visit the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), a confusing and controversial element of the coffee trade in Ethiopia.

 

Ethiopian Commodities Exchange

Ethiopian Commodities Exchange

 

The ECX was launched in 2008, and was met with skepticism by specialty coffee roasters in the United States, and around the world. Mostly this was because coffee in the ECX is not traceable, as it is treated as a “commodity”. The idea behind the exchange is to drive transparent price discovery for types/qualities of coffee. Whereas specialty buyers wanted to buy specific lots from specific suppliers, rather than a commoditized regional “type.” The Exchange has several grades for all of its types, the most recognized being “Yirgacheffe,” “Sidamo” and “Harrar”, which are each regions of Ethiopia. We were not allowed to bring cameras into the building, but we were given a tour by an employee and shown the trade floor. Basically a group of buyers and sellers are locked in the octagon to do battle for an allotted time and bid on coffee. Deals are made when a buyer and a seller high-five to agree on the price. Whenever a deal is struck it is posted on a board over the floor for everyone to see the agreed price and quantity. The floor seems fairly calm until the last few minutes before the bell, and people start frantically trying to buy and sell. At this point I had a fairly rosy overview of how the Exchange worked, thanks to the cheerful employees who were very happy to tout its benefits. Although I was still confused about how the real coffee actually came in and then went back out of the Exchange: that confusion would linger until the end of the trip.

Day 2
The next day we set out for Keffa, a 12-hour drive from Addis Ababa which meant leaving at 6am, as we did not want to drive in the dark. My excitement of being in Ethiopia hadn’t worn off yet, even throughout the 12-hour ride, and even increased as we headed to Keffa, the forest where, the legend goes, coffee originally grew wild.  This in spite of the drive being the type you see on National Geographic complete with pot-hole ridden roads, where there were paved roads at all, baboons, and an endless supply of pedestrians and donkey carts willing to play Frogger. The last stretch of the drive was about 50km of red dirt roads, which were so loose you could literally not see the front of the car our the front window due to the dust kicked up.

Dust-blinded driving condtions.

Dust-blinded driving condtions.

If wasn’t still excited about being in Ethiopia, I was at least amped by the sheer adrenaline of driving in these conditions. We arrived just before dark, which meant a 2-hour journey to the coffee forest would put us there in almost pitch dark conditions.  Combined with the likelihood of seeing almost nothing, and being exhausted from all the traveling meant foregoing the lore, and just enjoying dinner in the hotel courtyard before retiring to bed early.

 

Day 3
I got up at 5:30am hoping for a shower before our 6:30 departure, but the water still wasn’t working from the night before. After breakfast we all piled back in the car, and drove about 2 hours to a farm called “LemKeffa” which is one of few plantations in Ethiopia. Less than one percent of farms here are plantations, defined as more than 30 hectares, and only plantations are allowed to sell to exporters directly. LemKeffa is owned by Addisu, a former cab driver in New York City. Addisu and I hit it off immediately, talking about New York, his time as a cab driver, his family in the US, and, ultimately, his farm. He moved back to Ethiopia about 10 years ago to purchase the farm, and hired an Agronomist farm manager about 5 years ago. Addisu’s farm is very representative of what we saw throughout most of Ethiopia, if a little better managed. We spent a good amount of time talking specifically about how farms are managed in Ethiopia, and about how the government encourages farmers to increase production.

Coffee Hotel in Keffa

Coffee Hotel in Keffa

Currently Ethiopia produces less than half the coffee per hectare compared to Central America. It is unclear exactly why, though Ethiopian farms have little to no access to fertilizers as they are prohibitively expensive. While most farm visits are fairly straightforward—walk through the trees, look around and take some pictures—walking Addisu’s farm was charged with an unusual energy. My excitement of seeing my first farm in Ethiopia, or even Africa, was part of it, but also my realization that even though I’m pretty good at recognizing the more common varieties of coffee tree, as I looked around the farm nothing looked familiar! Even knowing about the genetic diversity of coffee in Ethiopia, it was quite another thing to actually witness it.


After lunch, one of the ladies on Addisu’s farm demonstrated the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony for us. (The ceremony involves roasting green coffee beans on a pan over coals, mashing them inside a hollowed out log with a large wooden mallet, and brewing them in a gourd-like vessel with boiling water, before being served.) Further demonstrating that coffee here is an integral part of the social fabric, following every meal, and all social gatherings.

 

Stay tuned for Part II of Dan’s Ethiopia Diaries!

We’re moving downtown! Now open at 88 Orchard Street.

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Join us in celebrating the opening of our fourth Manhattan cafe at 88 Orchard on the Lower East Side. This neighborhood cafe in one of the city’s most fascinating historic districts, for years known as simply 88 Orchard, has long been loved by the community, and has for more than a decade been a wonderful showcase for our coffees.

88 Orchard was one of Irving Farm’s first retail outlets to whom we wholesaled our coffee. When it came time for the cafe’s owners to choose a new direction in life, naturally, they turned to us to see if we’d like to take over the space. Naturally, we said yes!

We’re the official caretakers here now, and have spruced it up with the warm, fresh decor you’ve come to associate with Irving Farm, along with the same great coffees—and even more of them to choose from. We’ve added a Daily Single Origin batch brew, microlot coffee on Kalita pourover bar, and more! And we’re still serving wonderful sandwiches, bagels, baked goods and delicious local beer and wine.

Pay us a visit at the corner of Orchard and Broome today!

 

Nice is Nice, and so are Coffee People

The French Riviera beckons. Photo by Dan Streetman.

The French Riviera beckons. Photo by Dan Streetman.

Our Coffee Director, Dan Streetman, recently traveled to Nice, France, for the 2013 Specialty Coffee Association of Europe conference. While he wasn’t tanning on the beach, he took the time to meet with some coffee colleagues and producers and to judge some rigorous competitions. Here is his recap of the week.

The South of France might be one of the most universally exciting travel destinations in the world, especially in June. When I was invited to attend this year’s Specialty Coffee Association of Europe show, I jumped at the chance. Spending a week in the Riviera was just too enticing, even if it meant a week of trade show activities.

Arriving in France, the plane took a sweep off the coast of the city. Nothing but crystal azure water and terracotta roofs extending from the beach to the foothills in the distance. Even a view of the distant Alps made for quite the introduction. After dropping bags at the hotel and a quick breakfast, I headed over to the convention center for judges’ calibration for the World Latte Art and World Coffee in Good Spirits competitions. We do not conduct national competitions for these events in the United States, so I was especially interested to participate.

The next few days would prove to be a whirlwind of activity, just like every other trade show. I was observing SCAE education classes, judging Coffee in Good Spirits as a sensory judge and walking the show floor in between. I was a little skeptical about Coffee in Good Spirits—a contest involving signature drinks combining coffee and alcohol—because as a coffee purist I have never been a fan of people putting things in my coffee. However the drinks in the competition made me a believer, as all of them were far superior to anything I had tried before in the way of coffee cocktails. This was especially true of the drinks in the final round, with some especially delicious drinks.  France took home the crown with their competitor making a drink that included coffee, Cognac, and a cigar whose smoke was trapped under a cloche and released just before drinking.

Working with SCAE Education folks was equally rewarding, as being so heavily involved with the Barista Guild and SCAA espresso curriculum it is always nice to share war stories with another group that faces similar challenges.

The best surprise of the show however was running into a few of our friends from producing countries. Andres Salaverria, whose family owns the farms of Guadalupe and El Molino in El Salvador was in attendance to facilitate some cuppings at the show with their European clients Nordic Approach. It is always great to see Andres, and especially so when it is unexpected. He informed me that the farms are doing very well, and they have almost defeated the leaf rust scare, reducing the infection from 40% of the farms to 1%. This news came as quite a surprise to me, as there has not been any news like this out of Central America in regards to the leaf rust epidemic.  Andres explained however that careful pruning and a lot of management had been the secret to their success—along with favorable weather.

I was also lucky enough to see Omar Rodriguez, who is President of the Capucas Co-op. He was excited to hear that we had just received our coffees, and that we were looking forward to releasing them (our fresh crop of Capucas is now available). Omar also had surprisingly good reports in regards to leaf rust in regards to our other producers from Capucas: Jose Francisco and Jose Luis who own Los Plantanares and Los Lirios.

My third encounter was with Tsion Taye who was my guide in Ethiopia this year.  We chatted business briefly, and talked about the complexities of Ethiopia. I also got some advice on how to get some very exciting coffees for next year.

Judge Streetman rigging another contest...

Judge Streetman rigging another contest…

After the event, I was energized by the interactions of the show. Volunteering at these events always drives home that coffee is about people—particularly those people who  you may not even expect to run into but who make all the difference. Working and collaborating with these people is my favorite part of working in coffee.

 

A word about the Barista Guild of America

dan_bga

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

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

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

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

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

Two Ethiopians are Twice as Nice!

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We love both these coffees for their characteristic silky body and abundance of fruit flavor. To encourage you to try both side by side, and explore the nuances of this historic coffee region, we’re offering $5 off with any $35 purchase now through 18 June 2013. Just use coupon code HI5ETH in the final step of checkout.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

amaro_gayo_new

AMARO GAYO, ETHIOPIA Asnakech is the only female mill operator in Ethiopia and we are proud to support her efforts at producing truly spectacular coffees by presenting to you her Amaro Gayo, a cup full of lush berry flavor, complex acidity and juicy body. Shop Now >

yirgacheffe_ethiopia_1

YIRGACHEFFE, ETHIOPIA Coffees from this region receive the Yirgacheffe designation because they have been washed using a traditional Ethiopian process developed to improve quality. This process helps remove defects, and leads to a clean, citrus-like flavor profile for which Yirgacheffe is known. Shop Now >

 

 

Celebrate Earth Day With Rainforest Foundation Project!

Rainforest Foundation Blend

At Irving Farm we’re in constant pursuit of not only delicious, but sustainable coffees that give back to the earth that’s generous enough to grow it, on Earth Day and every day.

Today, April 22nd, try a bag of our Rainforest Foundation Project coffee, a fully USDA organic certified, Bird-Friendly and Fair Trade blend made from a harmony of beautiful coffees from Honduras and Peru. When you purchase a bag of Rainforest Foundation Blend coffee, $1 from the sale of each bag will go to our friends at the Rainforest Foundation, an organization we’re proud to partner with, and even prouder to share with you, this Earth Day.

Or if you’re local, come try a cup in one of our cafes, where we’re featuring it today, and pay for the price of only a small when you bring in your earth-friendly reusable cups. With steps like these we can celebrate Earth Day year-round. In the New York City area, you can also try it at Astor Row Cafe, McEnroe Organic, Union Market on 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, or at selected Whole Foods stores in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Irving Farm at United States Barista Championship!

Liz Dean and Teresa Von Fuchs keep Tamara Vigil upright and upside-down at the Northeast Regional Barista Competition.

Liz Dean and Teresa Von Fuchs keep Tamara Vigil upright and upside-down at the Northeast Regional Barista Competition.

 

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

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

At the Northeast, Tamara competed using our Willer Rivera coffee from Colombia, a beautiful one-bag microlot sourced by our coffee director Dan Streetman. Señor Rivera’s coffee is long gone, but Tamara’s using another incredible Single Origin Colombian coffee, this one from coffee producer Orlando Osa, instead. Orlando’s farm is only a day’s walk from Willer Rivera’s, and we’re so excited to watch Tamara compete with this special coffee we’re even sending our roastmaster, Clyde Miller, along with two other team members, to help cheer and support Tam in person.

Tune in to all the weekend’s festivities live-streaming at usbaristachampionship.org Tam will be competing on Thursday, and we’ll announce the time on our Twitter feed. Go team Irving Farm, and go team Tam!

We’ve got big news for the Lower East Side!

 

88 Orchard FacadeWe’re moving on down to the Lower East Side — and we couldn’t feel more at home. We’re delighted to announce that we’ve welcomed longtime friends and Irving Farm retailer 88 Orchard officially into the fold.

This supremely cozy, historic space at the corner of Orchard and Broome has been loyally serving our farmhouse-roasted coffees to the Lower East Side for more than a decade. When the owner, and our friend, Erica, decided it was time to move in a new direction, the idea was obvious: bring her great shop truly into the Irving Farm family as our newest cafe.

Like our other cafes, what we love most about 88 Orchard is its interaction with, and sense of belonging to, the neighborhood around it. As a fixture both in its streetscape and in our hearts, we’ll be careful to preserve the most wonderful things about 88 — while building on its great menu and atmosphere with an even better, more beautiful interior and an improved coffee program that will knock the neighborhood’s socks off.

We’re honored to have the baton of this lovely cafe passed on to us, and we hope you’ll come visit early this summer once we’ve completed our full transition. And yes — we’ll be renaming the cafe Irving Farm Coffee Roasters — but don’t worry. You can still call it 88.

— David Elwell and Stephen Leven, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

Celebrating Honduran Coffees

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Honduras is a very special coffee producing country. For many farming families, producing coffee is still a new vocation: as such, there’s a palpable energy and passion for the newness of this wonderful crop. In our travels to Honduras, it’s been absolutely magical to watch Honduras transform, and work alongside producers as they try new things, working to bring their coffee to exemplary levels worthy of demanding, high-quality purchasers.

To celebrate our current roster, enjoy 10% off these Honduran coffees* now through 2/20:

 

capucas

CAPUCAS, HONDURAS

The town of Capucas is home to just over 80 families who produce coffee. Throughout town, coffee plantations border small homes, with vegetable gardens and chickens loose in the yard. Many of the farmers also have small “micro-mills” to process their coffees, and then sell through the co-op.

lirios
LOS LIRIOS, HONDURAS

Los Lirios means The Lilies and is the home of Jose Luis Rivera and his family in western Honduras. The Riveras are members of the Capucas co-op, and for years have sold their coffee through the cooperative. Recently, they established a small mill on the farm, and started processing their own coffee.

plantanares
LOS PLANTANARES, HONDURAS

Pancho has been growing coffee for more than 20 years, mostly selling his crop to the local co-op. His wife and five children live on the farm, and the whole family is passionate about coffee. Pancho’s intimate connection to his coffee is an inspiration, and so is this micro-lot Los Plantanares: an inspiration in the cup.

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