Cursive Coffee Keeps Vermont Poppin’ (Up)

In this fourth in a series of interviews by Irving Farm to the talented food and drink professionals we work in partnership with, we take a minute with the Sam and Jim at Cursive Coffee in Burlington, Vermont, to talk about their grassroots effort to bring the coffee to the people.

 

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Tell us about Cursive Coffee? Where’d the name come from?
Cursive is primarily a mobile company, an itinerant pop-up, if you will, but we’re becoming a bit more sedentary as we move toward roasting. We do events, farmers markets, and are regularly accessible at an antique shop called Barge Canal Market, in Burlington, Vermont. With regards to the name, there really is no way to know—we blacked out and ordered a thousand business cards, and here we are. We thought about changing it for awhile, but then we started stamping cups, so I guess we’re in. The rest is history.

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How’s moving all the equipment around going?
It’s fun, in a very frustrating and expletive-filled way. Both of us have been musicians for a long time, so we approached the notion of moving expensive equipment around very similarly to the way a band gears up for tour. We use a Gator subwoofer bag for our machine and grinder, and a Peavey microphone bag for most of our glassware. Since it’s Vermont, we were required to also use an array of wooden crates for our other belongings—our insurance requires a certain percentage of rustic impracticality. The biggest and most hilarious obstacle tends to be the plumbing—we use Flojets for our machine and pitcher rinser, and sometimes amidst set-up/break down we leave more residual dampness than we’d like to. Also we lose things often, which is a drag. Have you guys seen any cupping spoons that, ya know, probably aren’t yours?

When did you first get interested in coffee? What made you start to take it seriously?
Sam: My first job was in a coffee shop, I’ve been working in coffee for years and years. I’d always been more interested than most of my coworkers, least in the bad coffee shops I used to work at, but I started taking it seriously when I had my first noticeably good cup of coffee, which was during my training at Uncommon Grounds in Burlington, where Jim and I met and worked together for awhile. Compared to the dreck I’d been drinking before, it was definitely a STEP UP.
Jim: I haven’t been working in coffee for as long as Sam, but I do like to think I may have been responsible for the cup that changed his life. That’s how I tell it, anyway. For me, before working as a barista, I drank such an excessive amount of coffee and spent enough time obsessing about it that I figured, what the hell, I should do this for money. Uncommon was an awesome place to learn an array of things about preparation and roasting, and I think shit got next level for me when I went to MANE in 2012, and realized there was a whole culture out there, beyond the lakes and mountains of our dystopian New England enclave.

Where did you get the idea to pop up in an antique shop?
Well, we were really smitten with a lot of the odd pop-up situations going on in NY, foremost Parlor Coffee in [barbershop] Persons Of Interest, Verve at Poler, Brooklyn Jane, Sweetleaf inside a real estate agency—all those wacky pairings. At that point, we were only doing events and farmers markets, but getting a lot of great feedback, and wanted a spot where people could actually seek us out, at least for the winter. Honestly, I think that Barge Canal Market was the first idea we had – it’s a great big space, with tons of quirky antiques and interesting set pieces, as well as a built-in array of unique and endearing drinkware. The owners, Adelle and Jeremy, are swell as could be, and they loved the idea. It all worked out, and people seem to really enjoy being able to hang out and sip their drink in a midcentury living room. Admittedly our bar stools aren’t always the most comfortable.

How did you first hear about Irving Farm Coffee Roasters?
Jim: There was a drip pot of Don Pancho outside the room where I took my Barista Guild exam, at MANE 2012. I drank it, it was good, whatever. Year and a half later, when Sam and I started contacting roasters, Teresa won us over with her wit and charm, with which we strongly identified. Furthermore, as a company, we strive to emphasize the importance of transparency, and hardly anybody does a better job than Irving Farm in terms of making information accessible to the consumer.

Sam: Not to mention, the coffee is totally sick.
Jim: Yeah I guess so.

What’s your favorite Irving Farm coffee and how did you make it?
After hours of deliberation, a couple arm wrestles, and a lot of crying… we have concluded that El Molino is our all time favorite offering, and we loved it most fervently as espresso. Sticky sweet, apricot, peach syrup, honey. Adding a bit of milk made it taste like an orange creamsicle. Runners up might include the Dolok Sanggul, which we really love through the Kone, or the Idido through a good ol fashioned Chemex. But we don’t want the Rwandan Coopac that we’re drinking right now to overhear us and have its feelings hurt though…this is one of the most awesome and dynamic cups we’ve made through a Kalita in weeks.

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Who writes those awesome tasting notes? Can you share with us some of your favorite verbiage?
Jim writes the verbiage, Sam actually can’t form grammatically cohesive sentences, since he didn’t go to college. Jim workshops them aloud until hearing what only he can identify as an agreeable grunt from Sam. In terms of our favorite verbiage, we encourage folks to check out our Facebook and Instagram and decide for themselves. Some are funny, some are provocative, all of them get some warranted furrowings of brows at every Farmers Market.

What does the future hold for Cursive Coffee?
Roasting! Our ambition from the very beginning has been to evolve into a roasting and sourcing company…and as we embark upon this adventure, we’re doing it one origin at a time, with Matthew White as our roastdoctor, workshopping and sample roasting every forthcoming offering for weeks until we feel it’s really up to snuff. Serving Irving Farm coffee sets unreasonably high standards, but we’re not looking to relinquish them. Our first run is a Kenyan from the Gatomboya factory in Nyeri, purchased through Coffee Shrub. We only have fifty pounds, and we’ve been taking pre-orders to ensure that none is wasted and that every bag is received fresh off the drum!

Anything else you want to add?
Seltzer, if you’ve got any.

Visit Cursive Coffee at the Barge Canal Market in Burlington, Vermont, and various other surprise locations to try Irving Farm staples as well as a rotation of in-house roasted selections, and of course, a heaping helping of wit.

Peak Organic + Irving Farm Launch Espresso Amber Ale

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As coffee people, we’re naturally drawn to those who brew—the other stuff. Imagine our delight when our friends at Peak Organic Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine, tapped us to participate in a collaborative beer. Working together with their brewers, we helped them select from our finest organic coffee offerings to home in on the key ingredient (besides beer) in their new Espresso Amber Ale.

Jon Cadoux, founder and brewer at Peak Organic, is a longtime fan of collaborating with those who produce fine organic ingredients. When looking for a coffee component for their newest brew, “we let Irving Farm handle the coffee, while we handled the beer,” Cadoux said. “We respect their commitment to deepening relationships with the growers of their beans.”

While most coffee beers tend to focus on the darker shades of coffee, ending up in heavier beers like stouts and porters, Peak Organic wanted something a little bit on the lighter side. Malty, complex, and a little fruity. We guided them towards an organic coffee we really love from the Capucas cooperative in Honduras that would harmonize wonderfully with an amber style of beer. We roasted it to bring out precisely the notes of citrus, green apple and cinnamon Cadoux fell in love with, with a firm backbone of robust, toasty espresso.

The result? Espresso Amber Ale, an absolutely delicious crossover that we can’t wait to share with you.

The beer launches this weekend to our excitement and fanfare. But somehow that didn’t seem like enough, so on Friday, March 7…we’re throwing it a party!

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We hope you’ll join us to raise a glass of Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale at our 88 Orchard Street cafe in New York City, Friday, March 7 from 6–10pm. We’ll have food, music…and, of course, plenty of Espresso Amber Ale for you to try!

Dan Streetman on Edible Manhattan TV

We’ve always been huge fans of the Edible magazines and their coverage of our city’s constantly delicious, emerging scene, and we were honored to recently be featured in Edible Manhattan’s drinks issue, where we shared the Irving Farm story.

As a multimedia bonus, Edible Films produced this great video with our Director of Coffee, Dan Streetman, who was interviewed at our Manhattan headquarters about what his job is all about.

Go Big or Go Home at the Big Eastern

Tamara Vigil competing at the 2013 United States Barista Championship in Boston, Mass. Photo by Liz Clayton.

Tamara Vigil competing at the 2013 United States Barista Championship in Boston, Mass. Photo by Liz Clayton.

Do you ever wish coffee were more like sports? That it had the drama of reality shows? That you could root for your favorite coffees and baristas as they go neck and neck, head to head, portafilter to portafilter against one another, to the death, in a battle of skill, cleanliness, flavor and charm?

You can!

Starting today through Sunday, baristas up and down the eastern seaboard will be facing off at the Big Eastern Barista Competition and Brewer’s Cup, in Durham, NC, one of three regional run-ups to the United States Barista Championship to be held this April.

And of course, we’ve got a pony in the race: our Director of Education, Tamara Vigil, will be competing in the Barista Competition with one of her (and our) favorite coffees, the Ethiopian Amaro Gayo. This coffee, from the birthplace of coffee itself, is uniquely sweet and balanced, and we feel a deeper connection to it from Irving Farm’s own trips to visit Ethiopia.

If you don’t happen to be near enough to Durham to attend the event in person, you can cheer Tam on like most of us here will be, live, over the internet! Follow this link to watch live-streaming coverage of the entire competition. Tamara will be performing her competition routine at 1:01pm Eastern on Sunday, January 19th.

 As a bonus to help you get pumped up, we’ve gotten Tam to reveal her psyche-up soundtrack for competition. What’s in those headphones while she tamps and trains? Thin Lizzy “Bad Reputation”, “Wild One” and “Don’t Believe a Word”, Graveyard “Hisingen Blues”, Black Mountain “Evil Ways” and “Queens Will Play”, Black Sabbath “Supernaut” (of course!), Betty Davis “Steppin High in Her I. Miller Shoes”, M.I.A. “Born Free”, John Lee Hooker “Boom Boom”, and Roky Erickson’s “Bloody Hammer”. 

Go team Tam!!

Creating a Coffee Blend With a Community at Table on Ten

Table on Ten, Bloomfield, NY. Photo by Ingalls Photography.

Table on Ten, Bloomfield, NY. Photo by Ingalls Photography.

Relationships make great coffee. From the farmers, to the roasters, specialty coffee folk speak reverently of relationship coffee, emphasizing the bonds that bring us closer to the origins of coffee. But there are relationships on the other side of the coffee economy, closer to the point of consumption. But once a coffee has reached our roasting facility the number of people directly engaged in fashioning a finished product—say, a new blend or a roast profile for instance—is limited. Most of our customers, as they come to understand more of the labor that goes into roasting, profiling, and blending, are satisfied to choose from the coffees on a cupping table. We seek out—and work best—with partners who are as dedicated to their crafts as we are to our coffees. And they treat our, now their, coffee the way they treat everything else on their menus. But now and then a special customer comes along who wants to go deeper into the process with us.

Photo by Ugo Aniukwu

Photos by Ugo Aniukwu

Our friends at Table on Ten in Bloomville, NY—who seem to have direct lines of communication not just with their local producers, but with the produce itself—are one team for whom buying great coffees was not enough. They expressed to us their desire to be more involved in the production of the coffee they feature in their cafe. And not just for themselves—they wanted the opportunity to involve their local community in the process, to get the whole town together to create a blend. We were admittedly scratching our heads at the prospect of formally presenting, judging, soliciting and recording public feedback on the half-dozen coffees being considered for a Table on Ten blend. Such exercises are usually conducted at the roastery or in our training lab, so we were a bit out of our comfort zone, but excited about the adventure nonetheless.

So, one Saturday in early October, Teresa von Fuchs and I drove out of Manhattan and north into the western Catskills, nervous, excited and uncertain about what we were getting into. Neither of us had been to Bloomville before. But what we walked into that night was one of the most immediately familiar and welcoming communities either of us have had the good fortune to be introduced to. We were greeted warmly as “the coffee people” about whom Inez and Julian had told them so much. We never expected our presence to be so celebrated as it was that weekend in Bloomville. We sat down to a dizzying array of five or six pizzas, each a different recipe, and each incredibly delicious. We shared our table with Julian’s neighbors Cay Sophie and Christian, and it wasn’t until the end of the meal that we realized Cay Sophie and Christian would also be our hosts for the night, after taking us to a bonfire, where we met more travelers who were also in the process of falling in love with this place.

Bewildered as we were by the welcome we received and by the wonderful sense of community crowded into this unassuming house on the side the road, we very quickly began to make sense of what Table on Ten was looking for when they asked if we’d help them and their town create their own coffee blend.

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In the morning we set up on a table taking up much of of the microshop/cafe and began brewing. Table on Ten’s only criteria for coffees to be considered were that they come from producers with whom we have strong relationships, and that their town tended to favor darker roasts, which reminded Inez of the coffees she grew up on. We had three coffees roasted with two different profiles and we brewed up batches of all six for any and all who ventured to taste.

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There were lots of opinions and votes and tasting notes and smells and stories of coffees shared and loved and longed for. There was a whole family who came in for breakfast after celebrating a son’s wedding the night before. There was a couple visiting from Holland. There were quite a few folks from the city who swore they’d have to move to Bloomville after spending a weekend in its thrall. After all the votes were tallied (maybe we weighted Inez and the Table’s teams input a little heavier…) we blended the remaining small bags of coffee and A3 blend was born.

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After much cleaning and shaking of hands, we set back out on the road. With tummies stuffed full of pizza, made from scratch, with ingredients grown by friends and family, baked in an oven built by hand, off tables made from the woods and falling-down barns nearby–we understood the meaning of relationships and local production to the very heart of the cafe, and were proud that our coffee had the extra touch of relationship-building tucked inside. In Bloomville we were reminded of the other beautiful of face of relationship coffee. For this and all our relationships in coffee, we are grateful to no end.

Pastry Chef Laurie Jon Moran on Coffee as a Dessert Ingredient

Pastry Chef Laurie Jon  Moran in the kitchen at Le Bernardin.

Pastry Chef Laurie Jon Moran in the kitchen at Le Bernardin.

In this third in a series of interviews by Irving Farm to the talented food and drink professionals we work in partnership with, we take a minute with Executive Pastry Chef Laurie Jon Moran of Le Bernardin.
How did you get started in the food and beverage industry? and What’s your role now?
I knew I wanted to be a chef when I was about 14 years old, so after high school I went to culinary school rather than college. Now I’m lucky enough to be the Executive Pastry Chef at Le Bernardin.

What led you to pastry in your career?
While I was in culinary school I enjoyed pastry more and was more attracted to it because of the precision and technicality.

Tell us more about how you use coffee in creating your dessert menu? How do the individual flavor profiles of each coffee affect how you approach them?
The approach is generally to get as much of the natural flavor profile of the coffee beans into the dessert as we can, especially the lighter more floral notes that often get lost in dessert preparations.

What’s the most successful dessert you’ve ever made incorporating coffee?
The coffee dessert that we have on the menu right now is quite popular. It’s a play on a tiramisu but with coffee being the main flavor, supported by mascarpone and salted caramel. We try to make the quality and flavor of the coffee beans the thing that makes the dessert special and infuse them into most of the components.

What coffee/s are you currently working with? What interests or excites you about them?
We are currently using beans from Los Lirios, Honduras in our coffee dessert. I love its balance and fruity acidity. It is also one of my favourite coffees as an espresso, although for me, nothing has beaten the Amaro Gayo beans from Ethiopia.

What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve learned about coffee?
I didn’t realize how unique different coffees can be and how big the range of flavor profiles is. Trying different coffees as the selections changed at the Irving Farm 79th street shop really opened my eyes to that, then doing a cupping at the training lab really blew me away.

 

Blue Hill’s Chef Dan Barber on the G9…and the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber

Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber

The G9 Chef’s Summit, an annual meeting of the  International Advisory Council of the Basque Culinary Center, aka nine of the world’s top chefs, met close to our home this year in Pocantico Hills, NY, at the revered Blue Hill at Stone Barns farm and restaurant. We spoke with Blue Hill chef and G9 member Dan Barber about what the meeting was all about…and how the world’s top chefs liked our coffee.

What was this year’s G9 conference all about?
This year’s G9 was about bringing together the original producers of grains and seeds together with chefs to get them to think about the products and produce we use before they even hit the field. We all think about sourcing ingredients, and the further back along the chain we go when we think about it, the better. If we get to know the people who are imagining the flavors and textures of the future, we can work together to create that future.

What thing struck you most about this years’ conference?
Mostly the recognition that we may have overlooked breeders in our pursuit to eke out specific flavors and textures. That, and the chance to facilitate the meeting of so many incredible artisans.

So we have to ask, as we talk about the specific ingredients you choose to use at Blue Hill, how does coffee fit into your master plans?
The same way it fit into the conference this year. You have a collection of incredible chefs, breeders, this room full of incredible tasters and people driven by the pursuit of great flavor and we wanted to fuel them with great flavors in their cups. In our restaurant, it’s the diners who we want to provide the best possible tastes. And when we don’t screw it up, I think that’s what we do with your coffee.

 I was really happy at this year’s conference to be able to introduce so many people to Irving Farm and the work you all do. So many people came up to me and said they couldn’t believe Irving Farm Coffee tasted like that.

What’s on your mind, and what are you most excited to work on for this coming year? In terms of seeds/your restaurant/anything?
I’m most excited for good coffee!

Here’s to that!

Read more about some of the farms Blue Hill is inspired by here on their website.

Out and About This Fall With Irving Farm

If you’ve tasted Irving Farm coffee being served at a food event, charity food event, farmer’s food event or anything in between, chances are you’ve met our Directof of Wholesale, Teresa von Fuchs. Sometime in between working directly with those who proudly brew and serve Irving Farm, and attending all of these amazing events, Teresa managed to write a little recap for us of what she’s been up to. Suddenly the rest of us feel like massive underachievers.

 

Fall in Millerton, New York

Fall in Millerton, New York

Fall is a busy time of year for us at Irving Farm. It’s a time of bounty and harvest and celebrating the ripening of all the the seeds sown during the spring and summer. Though we don’t actually ‘grow’ our coffee on our farm, we’re pleased to be invited to participate in celebrating the bounty of harvest time with our many partners and friends in the food community. Here’s a quick wrap up of the celebrations we’ve been proud to share in—and share our coffee at. We started summer off right, making coffee for the Chef Farmer Brunch, hosted by No 9 to benefit the North East Community Center in Millerton. We made Kalitas of the fruit-forward Amaro Gayo in the beautiful Silver Barn—though we missed the evening barn dance, we’ll be there next year with our boots on!

Taste of Hudson Valley Bounty

Taste of Hudson Valley Bounty

The next weekend, also near our upstate roastery, we were featured in the delicious art installation Pancakes and Coffee by one of the Wassiac Project’s founders Jeff Barnett-Winsby. The annual weekend long Summer Festival showcases work by the artists in residency at the Wassaic Project as well as other artists, musicians and dancers from the community. The same weekend we were pleased to present some delicious pourovers at the annual Taste of Hudson Valley Bounty event and meet some more of our neighbors in farming and food. All of this inspired us to host one of our own events: in September we held our first coffee launch party, featuring the Ortiz Herrera and Mendez families and their coffees, Natamaya and Talnamica, at our 79th street cafe. There were specialty Salvadorian snacks, lots of coffee and wonderful family.

Harvest in the Square 2013

Harvest in the Square 2013

The next night we made merry with our longtime neighbors around Union Square at the Union Square Partnership’s annual Harvest in the Square. One of the first neighborhood-based tasting events in the city, Harvest in the Square connects the farmers of the city’s many farmers’ markets with the chefs and food artisans who use their beautiful produce and other foods. We felt right at home making coffee for the crowd of 1,000 attendees, vendors and volunteers on a beautiful night in Union Square, just around the way from our flagship cafe at 71 Irving Place. Irving Farm coffee was also fuel for the the James Beard Chef Bootcamp at Glynwood. Attendees enjoyed 71 Irving House Blend during the course of the conference and then selected coffees from some of our closest farm relationships to close out the chef’s signature meals of the final evening.

G9 Summit at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Photo by Kirra Cheers.

G9 Summit at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Photo by Kirra Cheers.

We were also honored to be invited by Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber to this year’s G9 (now G11) summit held at Stone Barns. One hundred and twenty chefs, seed breeders and journalists from the around the world were invited to a day of discussion at Stone Barns about “The Future of Flavor.” We were there to keep the crowd energized and delighted with the unique and varied flavors of coffees. We selected coffees from our offerings that showcased a range of varietals, processing methods and terroirs, and the quality and variety of our coffee selection was not missed by the audience.

Fast forward to later that same week and we sent a cadre of Irving Farmers to the annual MANE conference in Pawtucket, RI. Our team taught and attended classes and ruled the dance floor—and I was honored to present on the “How Did You Get Here?” panel, revealing the secrets of how I got where I am today (in coffee—not dance moves).

Kai holding down the fort at Taste of Gramercy.

Kai holding down the fort at Taste of Gramercy.

This fall also marked the inaugural Taste of Gramercy event, held on a beautiful sunday in October on our home turf of Irving Place. We mingled with Gramercy Tavern, Casa Mono and many of our well-known neighbors and met some new ones at well. That same day (!) we packed up our brewing gear and headed out to the Catskills to work with our partners at Table on Ten in Bloomville, NY on a blend that represents their community-driven spirit. We brewed three coffees, each roasted with two different expressions and gave tasting flights all day to anyone and everyone who stopped in. We then created a blend with the two coffees that received the warmest receptions and played best together. We were also so warmed by their community. Everyone made us feel right at home.

It was hard to leave, but we were welcomed back to the Hudson Valley to kick off Hudson Valley Restaurant Week! This is our second year as the official coffee sponsor and we were pleased as punch to spend the day brewing coffee at the Millbrook Winery and warming our bellies with veggie stew from Chef Eric Gabrynowicz of Restaurant North. And so we wrapped up the exciting season appropriately—at our upstate home in Dutchess County. It was our first year at this event and we were struck by how beautiful and bountiful and far-reaching our community is. As fall winds down into the holiday season we are most thankful for our fellow families of artisan producers and lovers of tasty things grown and crafted by hand!

Ethiopia Diaries: Part III

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

Yirgacheffe

Yirgacheffe. Photo by Dan Streetman.

Day 7
Morning came early, especially for a Sunday. However, today was the day we were going to visit Yirgacheffe. After being in Amaro the gilding was slightly off the lily, but there was still plenty of excitement to go around. The itinerary for the day included two washing station visits both of which are members of the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU). The YCFCU is significantly smaller than the Oromia Union, but still sizeable. The YCFCU however only has members in the zone of Gedeo where Yirgacheffe is, and a lot of famous coffee gets sold under that name. The first mill we would visit is called Koke and sits just outside the main town of Yirgacheffe. Upon arrival it is clear that the mill sits directly in the center of a community of small farms. We met with the leader of the cooperative, who was dressed in his Sunday best, to explain to us the history and plans of the Koke washing station and YCFCU.

Yirgacheffe Meeting

Meeting at YUCFU Co-Op. Photo by Dan Streetman.

There were a lot of questions about how the cooperative works within the union, and how that impacts the small farmers. It took us several hours to comprehend how the Unions and Cooperatives vote on the distribution of money, and how that gets back to the individual members. I think most of the confusion was centered around paying for coffee specifically: we the buyers being obsessed with how money paid for coffee gets back exclusively to the people who grew it. But it would seem the Union functions more as a business with the cooperative members as share-holders, returning the profits to them at the end of the year. After our questions were sufficiently answered we toured a few of the farms. Very small plots, and clearly outlined around the houses in the village, these producers were growing root vegetables like cassava along side their coffee. We were led to believe that most of the people here were subsistence farmers living off their vegetable crops and animal herds, while selling coffee for cash.

After Koke, we headed to another mill/cooperative called Harfusa. We encountered a very similar structure, and this time, equipped with our new knowledge, we were able to much more easily digest how things worked. Afterwards, we toured the wet mill and got more information on how coffee is processed in this area. Before we left, the community kids insisted on getting their photos taken. They were very entertaining and seemed to consider posing and viewing the photos an excellent game.

Trucks full of Coffee

Trucks full of coffee! Photo by Dan Streetman.

Day 8
Another early morning, this time bittersweet, as it marked our trek back to Addis and the beginnings of my journey back to New York. The trip to Ethiopia had conjured more questions than it answered, but there is nothing like a long drive to digest events. We stopped mid-day to visit an ECX warehouse. The operation was pretty intense, as there were many trucks waiting to get unloaded, and people everywhere. We were taken inside a cinder block building that functioned as the lab and offices. Inside we were met with the certificates of six Q grader licensed cuppers posted on the wall. It was pretty incredible to see that the QC functions of this lab halfway around the world used the exact same standards. We were taken through the entire process, and I was amazed at the sheer volume of coffee and work that got done in this small lab.

Day 9
Last day of the trip, and with an evening flight, we had time for one final cupping. It was great to bookend the trip with this, as we cupped many of the same coffees as the first day, but we also had an opportunity to taste coffees we had picked up along the way. It was especially surprising to see that a coffee we had bought on the side of the road scored an 84/100. We ate a late lunch and then went to the airport. I couldn’t but help shake the feeling that this would not be my last trip to Ethiopia.

 

Postcards from MANE

MANE relaxing.
Taking a load off at MANE. Photos by Joshua Littlefield.

“The experience I gained at MANE is invaluable. During those three days, I was able to attend several courses, including a cupping with winning farms from Rwanda/Burundi. What I realized is that Cup of Excellence isn’t always exactly what you’d expect (i.e. we tasted lots of potato defects.) What I also learned is the importance of quality control and thinking through the aspects of sensory analysis. Nevertheless, the true highlights for me were hearing George Howell’s speech on the ability to thrive and learn about what seems to be the never-ending science of coffee. What was also wonderful to see were the abundance of varietals and cultivars in a class given by Matt Brown of Cafe Imports. Given this experience, I have tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to be able to go to MANE. And I’m looking forward to sharing this newfound knowledge at Irving Farm!

— Kai, 71 Irving Place

 

Teresa training and MANEing.
Teresa training and MANEing.

“I had so much fun at MANE and was so happy to have had the opportunity to go! The thing that stood out to me the most was being able to see all the different paths that you could go within coffee. From growers to buyers, baristas and sales reps, the coffee community itself is a very large but connected community. At the “How Did They Get Here” panel, all of the coffee professionals talked about how they started out, mostly barista jobs but not looking to stay in coffee. No matter how many times they left coffee, because of personal lives, financial reasons, or relocating, they always somehow found their way back to the coffee. They all seemed to have a true passion for coffee not just in their jobs but in their own lives. My favorite class I took was deconstructing espresso machines. There, I gained a whole new respect for the machines and the techs that work on them after finding out just how electrical and explosive the machines really are. It also gave me a better understanding of their internal mechanics and how each part works. MANE was a great experience and it helped me to better understand just how big the coffee world is. I am so greatful and thankful to have gone with such an amazing team. And even though the po-po shut down the latte art throwdown, they couldn’t keep us from killin it on the dance floor.”

— Hannah, Millerton Coffee House

Tamara tearing up the floor at MANE.
Tamara tearing up the floor at MANE.

“I became a barista originally because I just needed a job to make money, and about a year ago I actually tried to leave because I thought it was time for me to grow up and get a ‘real’ job. But one of the things that had stuck out to me during my time at Irving Farm—and what eventually brought me back—was the strong sense of community and family. Working for Irving Farm, as a barista, was actually one of the few times in my professional life that I had felt truly supported, respected, and cared for by the people I worked with. And it was that sense of community, and sense of family, that beckoned my return to being a barista. I can’t think of many other people I know who work in a profession where they have such a strong and immediate bond with others in their field. Since then I’ve learned that that sense of community, and general spirit of camaraderie, extends beyond Irving Farm into the coffee community at large. Having the opportunity to go to events like MANE, and being able to meet and connect with so many people all united by a common passion, and who all seem genuinely and earnestly excited about sharing that passion with other likeminded folks, is truly remarkable. MANE is particularly wonderful for folks more newly joining the coffee scene to get a sense of what’s out there. It’s a smaller event, and less expensive to participate in than some bigger events, so it’s not as daunting of a commitment to go to for anyone in the Northeast who works in the coffee industry. There are just enough people there so that you run into a few familiar faces, but you still meet and exchange ideas with many new ones as well. There was a class or panel for everyone, whether you were a roaster, barista, coffee shop manager, or just someone interested in coffee. One of my favorite classes was on the “flavor wheel”—a comprehensive chart developed to categorize aromas and tastes in coffee. And it was amazing to learn that despite the fact that coffee has been around for a very long time, the science of tasting coffee is still an emerging field, and there’s still a lot to learn and discover. Another class I really enjoyed was on espresso extraction. In that class, we split into small groups and had to dial in a coffee—that we knew nothing about beforehand—to try and optimize the taste of the espresso and drawing out its best qualities in the shot. We played around with dose, time, and grind to see how each of these variables affected the way the espresso tasted. We were delighted to find that the settings we were most happy with matched, almost exactly, the description the coffee roaster had printed on the bag! On the last day of the event, there was a panel featuring a variety of speakers who’d found ways to take their passion for coffee and turn it into a career, which really hammered home the significance of being there. These were people who were once where I was—passionate but still uncertain—and who had taken what they loved and what they were good at, and made it into a meaningful career. Listening to them helped me connect all of the new information I’d gleaned from classes and all of the sharing and exchanges I’d had with different people, and helped me see the myriad possibilities I had for my future in coffee. Which is really, really exciting. I’m looking forward to more opportunities like MANE where I can learn new things and share in new creative ideas with other people who are as passionate and enthusiastic about their work in coffee as I am.
— Liz, 79th & Broadway

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