A Trip to Barista Camp for Irving Farm

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As much as we like to sell bags of coffee and talk about how great it is to brew at home, there’s one thing home brewing can never replicate: the energy of a cafe, and the spirit of a barista. We know that part of creating our home-away-from-home experience for people who visit Irving Farm has much to do with the spirit of those who make up our crew–and there’s no better way to keep people engaged and enthusiastic, passionate and curious, than to surround them with like-minded professionals.

It’s this thinking that keeps us sending Irving Farm folk to Barista Camp, a twice-a-year training camp held by the Barista Guild of America that brings together all experience levels to learn from and meet one another–while receiving professional certifications and hands-on training. This spring, we sent two of our team–Ben from 71 Irving and David from 79th Street–to sleepaway barista camp in Wisconsin. When not busy having fun, or recovering from it, they were thoughtful enough to send some postcards home.

“David and I were sent to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for Barista Camp. Camp activities included things like cupping coffee and tea and milk steaming classes, and within all of that time were great moments with some really great people in the coffee industry. While we had several hours of coursework on espresso and brewing, we also had time to practice on the espresso machines. Being able to spend time with machines I’ve never seen was a real plus. Even with all of the aforementioned machine playtime and three meals a day, I’m most grateful for the human element. Having the opportunity to interact with people within our community that have such care and passion for what we do, and representing a company that cares about education to the extent that it does, made my camp experience so enlivening.”
– Ben

“It was such a memorable experience! When I imagined barista camp, in my mind I had this picture of people getting up early from bed, and going to sleep late at night, and learning all day. (In other words: boring.) And this is exactly what happened—but there was a big difference at this camp. We learned a lot of things about coffee and the art of making an excellent cup of coffee, but at the same time, the more I learned about coffee, the more I craved more knowledge, and the time kept getting shorter each day.

Lectures were given by some of the most experienced instructors in the industry, and there were opportunities for everyone who was there to experiment with different kinds of machines and equipment. My favorite equipment was the siphon, which gives a very distinct cup of coffee. Rich in flavor, but also clean, uninterrupted flavor. The espresso machines were of all kinds, including the famous La Marzocco Strada, similar to the one we have at 79, which I was able to practice on.

Though we were at the barista camp, we had an opportunity to attend a lecture about tea as well, which was taught by the best instructors from Rishi Tea company, and we also had a tea cupping session. We attended more classes, and learned more about measurements and qualities of coffee, and how to identify different kinds of flavor notes in espresso shots. We learned a lot about milk, and how different types of milks affect the quality of coffee drinks–including different kinds of cows, and the way they are taken care of, and how the kinds of grass they eat can make a huge difference in the cup. We had a milk cupping session which gave me a whole new perspective in the way I see milk.

Just as importantly, we had enough time to interact with each other and exchange knowledge. I was able to tell them about Irving Farm Coffee, which made a few people interested in coming to New York, and I got to learn about other coffee companies as well. It was nice to know that many people knew our own Tam, and I was glad to talk about her behind her back. And in the end I was able to take my level one certificate barista test, and I hope to receive my certificate soon.”
–David

To get involved with the next Barista Camp taking place October 6-9 in Rancho Mirage, California, visit the Barista Guild of America website. Registration opens July 15!

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.