A Field Trip to Millerton

We couldn’t truly bridge the gap between the country and the city without interchange of ideas between our New York City cafes and the farmhouse roasting operations upstate in Millerton. We recently sent a field trip of lead baristas, including Liz Dean, from the big city up to Dutchess County to get some hands-on education in what it takes to bring amazing coffee to Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond. Here are Liz’s impressions from our farm.

The team learning about roasting. Photo by Miguel Rios.

City kids learning about farmhouse roasting. Photo by Tamara Vigil.

 

Most of us who live in cities are far removed from the processes that go into producing what we consume, thanks in part to globalization and the industrialization of agriculture. While that’s widely considered an important and integral part of our societal development, this disconnect also creates a chasm in terms of understanding where and how our food—and in this case, our coffee—comes from. Which means, ultimately, that it can be hard to fully appreciate how much time, energy and love go into producing the cup of coffee you order in the morning and sip, bleary-eyed, as you set out for work.

In order to try and close the gap for our customers, a team of Irving Farm’s lead baristas—myself included—headed out to the farm where we roast our coffee, in Millerton, New York, just an easy two-hour train ride from the city. The purpose of our trip was to connect—or really, to reconnect—our work as baristas, to the work that goes into producing the coffee we serve.

We departed early from Grand Central Terminal—stopping for coffee at our location there, amid the rush of morning commuters, stern in their suits, and the hordes of teenaged European tourists all in matching T-shirts—and arrived at the expansive greenery of the Hudson Valley countryside.

Our roastmaster Clyde Miller greeted us at the train station in his pickup and drove us out to the farm. The actual roasting facilities are inside a renovated barn, and from the outside you’d have no idea what kind of wizardry and science was happening within those walls.

At the farm, Dan Streetman gave us a brief talk on the four phases of roasting, explaining how each of the phases affected the coffee physically and chemically in the process, and how they would affect the way the coffee ultimately tasted.

One of Dan’s jobs at Irving Farm is to select the coffees Irving Farm buys and roasts. He gets sent bags of sample coffees from all over the world, and he conducts small “sample” roasts to determine whether the coffee is something we’d like to carry. Dan let us choose from these bags of samples so that we would have a chance to roast coffee on our own, using the sample roaster.

I selected a bag of coffee from Yemen, only because I’d never had Yemeni coffee before. Some of the other baristas selected their sample coffee based on varietal, or processing style. Dan showed us how to roast on the sample roasters: how to let air in and out of the roaster to either quicken or slow the speed of roasting, and how to adjust the flame in order to control the temperature.

Roastmaster Clyde deep in thought. Photo by Miguel Rios.

Roastmaster Clyde deep in thought. Photo by Miguel Rios.

Much like in cooking or baking, there is an important balance between time and temperature—and there’s a line at which something becomes “overdone” and, regardless of the quality to begin with, not nearly as tasty as it could’ve been. Nearly all of Irving Farm’s coffees are roasted to the “sugar browning” phase, or what’s commonly considered a “medium roast”. Quite a few coffees in the world—and many that are used for espresso—make it all the way past “second crack” into the dry distillation phase (where it’s then considered a “dark roast”), and it’s in that territory that not very good coffee can be masked by the darkness of the roast, and where quality coffee can easily lose its more subtle flavors. When Dan and Clyde develop profiles for the coffees we roast, they find the right combination of measurements of time and temperature in order to draw out and produce a particular coffee’s best qualities. A lot of our coffees are light to medium roasts because they’ve found that those roasts are best at highlighting a coffee’s most outstanding features. The process is both an art and a science of precision.

Under Dan’s instructions, I monitored my little sample coffee carefully, checking the color of the beans with a long-handled spoon—listening for the “first crack”, almost like the sound of popcorn popping—and let it roast a little longer before quickly dumping it out to cool. Cooling is an important part of the process—once the coffee reaches its desired roast, it’s important to stop the roasting process at that point immediately. The whole process doesn’t take much more than 10 minutes, but it feels like a lot of work.

And yet, meanwhile, just steps away from me, Clyde goes about his business for the day, filling orders for the stores and for our wholesale accounts, roasting much larger quantities of coffee in the big Diedrich roaster and checking the process carefully on the computer, using data plotted out as a line graph to indicate the coffee’s roast profile. Later, Dan and Clyde will conduct cuppings to taste the coffees they’ve roasted in order to ensure consistency and quality.

Sample roaster at the farm. Photo by Miguel Rios.

Sample roaster at the farm. Photo by Miguel Rios.

The painstaking level of detail that goes into every step of this process is staggering. At the end of the day, holding a small bag of only a few ounces of coffee that I’d roasted felt like an accomplishment, and so to glance around the barn at the 100lb bags of coffee waiting to be roasted, or the huge bins of freshly roasted coffee, or the retail bags awaiting shipment, really drove home just how much energy and time went into the process of making coffee.

The next morning at work, I watched the caramel-colored drip of espresso into a cup and marveled at how small it seemed, how little there was to show for how much had gone into its production. It was kind of grounding, really, to be so aware of the fact that the coffee I held in my hand was simply the final step in a long process of changing hands, and of changing forms… from farm, to farm, to cup.

Having the chance to really experience this process firsthand lends a kind of beauty and honor to what otherwise seems like an ordinary ritual of having a cup of coffee in the morning before you start your day.

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.

 

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Iced Pourover!

Iced Pourover

Liz Dean brewing Iced Pourover at our 79th Street Shop

Almost as if the calendar knew it, New York City heated up to its hot, muggy, worst summer self just as it turned late June. While there’s no cure for fifth-floor walkups and insufficient window air conditioners, we at Irving Farm are doing our best to offer the biggest anti-heat weapon we have in our arsenal: the iced pour-over coffee.

While many cafes offer batch-brewed cold coffee, we find the single-cup pourover method of brewing coffee directly over ice has more flavor.The nuance and acidity (that’s a good thing) naturally within each coffee is allowed to sparkle and shine in the iced pourover method—to you, this means a cup that’s both more flavorful and more refreshing. We do both our large-batch and hand-brew methods over ice, because we find it the most delicious method.

If you’d like to replicate our iced pour-over method at home, we bet you’ll find it delicious, too!

Here’s how to do it, using a standard pourover cone and decanter, or single-body brewer like the Kalita Wave:

Our process:
- Place 200g ice in the decanter
- 30g coffee (ground slightly finer than hot pour-over) in the filter
- Pour 60-70g hot water onto the coffee and allow to bloom for 1min then slowly pour the rest of the water up to 200g.
- Total Brew time should be 3min 30sec.
- Swirl and pour over a glass of ice!

You’re done!

 

 

 

A word about the Barista Guild of America

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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!

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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 >

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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 >

 

 

Fresh Spring Changes at Millerton Coffee House

Millerton Coffee House
It’s been nearly a year since we had the unique pleasure of taking back the original Irving Farm Coffee House in Millerton, NY into the Irving Farm Family. We gave the Coffee House a face lift last June, but we’re really excited to have had a moment this spring—okay, more than a week—to make bigger improvements.

Right away, customers will notice the new seating—cozy sage green banquette seating along one wall—but look down at the completely refinished floors, or walk to the reclaimed wood bar with a more open flow, easier for the customer and barista both.

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We’ve also made changes in the kitchen—our baker has a separate area now, we’ve upgraded the water filtration system for even better tasting coffee. Our espresso and drip coffee service has been complemented by a Kalita pourover bar, which you’ll see debuting soon. And—oh yeah—central air conditioning, just in time for summer.

As for the floral arrangements from local Millerton gardens, we’re keeping that our little secret.

Haven’t ever paid a visit to our Hudson Valley location? Now’s the time, it’s better than ever.

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 Love Hudson Valley Restaurant Week!

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

Irving Farm’s ongoing relationship with Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is a great way for us to show our support of the vibrant, delicious locavore food culture of the Hudson Valley. From the coffee beans we roast farmhouse fresh in Dutchess county to the cups we serve at our Millerton Cafe and in New York City, to the people who enjoy our coffee after dinner at countless Hudson Valley Restaurants–we couldn’t be happier to be a part of this culinary community. Moreover, we find the farm-to-chef conversation critical to our own goals in bringing conscientiously sourced, high quality coffee to our little corner of the world.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week

We were delighted to hold a series of coffee tastings at our Millerton cafe last week to honor our connection to this celebration. Thanks again to all involved for a great two-week week of beautiful, thoughtful cuisine, and the great conversations it inspires.

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

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