Notes From Colombia

Irving Farm Coffee Colombia

When not cupping and roasting alongside Roastmaster Clyde in our Hudson Valley roastery and tracking shipments of beautiful coffees across the seas, Irving Farm’s Coffee Director, Dan Streetman, likes to check in on the farms with whom we have relationships. This September, he visited Colombia, one of the world’s most prolific coffee-growing nations, and home to some of our favorite coffees year after year. As always, Dan wrote some letters home to his Irving Farm “farmily”, and also as always, we now share them with you.

Irving Farm Coffee Colombia

Day 1
Today is the first day in Colombia. I got into Bogota last night around 11pm, and we went back to the airport at about 4am to catch our flight to Huila. We landed in Neiva after a short flight on a propeller plane. On the way, we hit some fairly weird turbulence, and I think it was the closest I have ever been to puking in flight… however, our sunglass-wearing flight attendant helped me keep it together with her dark wire-frame Ray-Bans and serious poker face a la Lady Gaga.

We had a two hour drive to the town of Timana (Tee-ma-NAH), which is the oldest municipality in Huila. A beautiful little town with a quaint central square and historic old church/cathedral. In Timana, we met with a grower’s association called Aspro Timana. They are essentially a co-op with about 100 members, 30 of whom are female. They are doing some very cool stuff especially in terms of Colombia. They have a Q-certified cupper on staff, and are cupping every lot that comes into the warehouse, and maintain price premiums for coffees that score 83+ or 85+. They are also working very hard between their cupping team and technical assistance team to work with the growers to improve their quality. We cupped 9 coffees from this group, all were solid 82-83 coffees with the best being in the 86-87 range. I was mostly impressed by how consistently good the coffees were.

Also cool about the cupping was that we tasted two different fermentation processes by one producer, one a normal 16-20 hour fermentation, and the other a 72 hour anaerobic fermentation without water. The 72 hour fermentation was one of the clear favorites on the table. Afterward, we went up to the producer’s farm for lunch. When we arrived we were across a ravine and down from the house where we would be eating lunch, and the ravine had a zip-line running across it. Someone said, “we’re riding the zip-line across the gorge,” at which point I noticed a large wooden/metal frame hanging from the zip-line.

Irving Farm Coffee Colombia

Irving Farm Coffee Colombia

“Who wants to go first?” we were asked. I promptly got into the frame, and got hoisted across this at least 100ft drop by an electric motor.

The farm was beautiful and lunch was delicious—a local version of chicken soup called “salcocho” in which they make broth and then serve it with TOUGH old hen, plantains, yucca, and starchy corn. The farm is 1,750 meters above sea level, which made it quite cool temperature-wise, especially once it started drizzling rain. After lunch we hiked up to the top of the farm, which is 1,850 masl, and noted the mix of Castillo and Caturra varieties. He had “la roya” (leaf rust) up to about 1800 meters, but the very top was untouched. We also saw one Typica tree.

After the farm tour we piled back in Jeeps to get back to town. Our driver’s green Jeep was lovingly entitled “El Loco”, and it was in El Loco in which we jammed to reggaeton all the way down the dirt roads back to Tamina.

Irving Farm Coffee Colombia

Chris Davidson of Atlas Coffee leading cupping comments.

Day 2

A slightly less adventurous day here in Colombia. We stayed in Garcon last night, so this morning we woke up and got breakfast in the hotel before walking over to the co-op offices of CooCentral. CooCentral is a larger co-op in Huila which operates in about 6 municipalities. They have 4,000 members.

We got briefed on the co-op programs, which are quite impressive, before cupping 22 coffees. We saw some solid quality, up to 86.75, and nothing was below 83—so very good in terms of quality, but a little disappointing for us, as we are looking for the Super WOW coffees.

After lunch we went up the mountain to visit a producer which is working with CooCentral. They were located at a fork in the road so our van-bus had to go up and turn around… at which point we got stuck. After a little worrying, and some digging, along with some bamboo, ingenuity and elbow grease, we got the van turned around.

At the farm, we met a female producer who is part of a program which focuses on providing assistance to women farmers. Her family actually was displaced by a dam project in a nearby valley. Her family was asked if they wanted land or money by the power company, and they chose land, eventually taking over an abandoned coffee farm about 18 months ago.

So far they are doing very well, mostly because they have little experience in coffee and they are following the advice of the co-op very rigorously.

After our farm tour we tried an original dessert of candied coffee pulp along with coffee panna cotta and goat cheese. The flavor was quite good, but at this point my eyes were twitching from all the caffeine.

Tomorrow we head to La Plata to cup coffees from the Monserrate region. This is where our Willer Rivera, Luis Rivera, El Jigual, lots have come from in past years. I am hoping that we will find some coffees from here again. Only time will tell.

Irving Farm Coffee Colombia

Day 3
In La Plata, we cupped 40 coffees for the “Monserrate Microlot Competition” This is the 6th year they have held the competition, and Monserrate is where all of our Colombian coffees have come from. Think Capucas, but smaller (in overall people), and less organized (even though the average farm size is a little larger).

There were some awesome coffees; I scored the winner 92.5. After the 2nd day of cupping we had an awards ceremony for the winners, afterwards, all the buyers played the local kids in a game of soccer. We got trounced 6-2. Although we put up a good fight, it was a 2-2 tie after 20 minutes… I even scored the first goal of the game, however… a mentally egregious error of a handball set up the Penalty Kick that put the kids up 3-2 and they never looked back.

After the soccer game, we headed back to Bogota, and I caught my flight early Monday morning. Still waiting to hear from our from our friends in Colombia about getting samples sent so we can finalize coffees for this year, but I am definitely excited about the prospects.

Irving Farm Coffee Colombia

Three Months Later
We are getting half of the competition winner’s supply: 2 bags from Diego Casso, and have purchased coffee from previous winners, Willer Rivera, Orlando Osa, and coffee from Dario Anaya, whose El Jigual we had a couple years back, along with a lot from the whole community. Willer and Orlando’s coffees are here now, with more of these great Colombian coffees to come soon in our shops.

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.

SCAA Special Recognition Awarded to Dan Streetman!

Irving Farm Coffee Green Buyer and SCAA Special Recognition Award Winner Dan Streetman
Congratulations to Dan Streetman, winner of a 2013 SCAA Special Recognition award!

We at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters have recognized Dan Streetman, our Green Coffee Buyer and Vice President of Wholesale, as special for some time. His career path and dedication to specialty coffee speak for themselves: for ten years, Dan has applied himself to constantly bettering his understanding of coffee and, in turn, helping coffee get better alongside it. As a seasoned coffee professional, Dan’s had a chance to work for such venerated companies as Cuvee Coffee Roasting Company, in his home state of Texas, and historic Dallis Bros. Coffee here in New York City.

All the while, Dan’s been seen on the scene: whether it’s his worth with the Barista Guild of America, helping baristas further themselves along with the craft of coffee preparation, or his countless hours volunteering as a Certified Head Judge at barista competitions nationwide since 2008. As a member of Team Irving Farm, we’ve been honored to have his guidance and expertise in the continued improvement of our green coffee sourcing operations, among countless other contributions he makes to our wholesale and day to day operations.

We’re thrilled, then, to see him receive this unique Special Recognition Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America for 2013, to be formally awarded at the SCAA annual conference in Boston, this coming April. From the SCAA website: “These leaders have made contributions to the industry, resulting in the development and promotion of coffee excellence and sustainability.”

We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations, Dan!

Travel Update: Honduras + Nicaragua

Jose Francisco Villeda and family


Dan meeting farmers, Hoduras newspaper


Omar, Las Capucas Co-op President


The view from El Cielito in San Vicente




Coffee flowers in Nicaragua


Travel Diary

Dan, our Coffee Director, just returned from a coffee buying trip where he visited some old friend and made new coffee friends; sniffed, swirled and spit coffee; crossed borders and made the newspaper in Honduras…

Here are a few lines from his travel diary:

First stop, Capucas:

I wanted to drop a line about Las Capucas. Everything was amazing when we got here. Our hosts had built cabanas for us to stay in, which was real fun. This year the co-op had 40 new members join and I got to meet some of them. Great news, they all replaced their milling equipment with brand new milling equipment! Best of all, the coffee is improving. This year they had 44 lots in the competition (last year we had 30) and there were only 2 lots that we scored as “non-specialty”. This is an impressive achievement and I’m excited about how things continue to develop here.

On Saturday after the festival, I visited Jose Francisco Villeda (aka Pancho) and his family.  He is a farmer whose coffee we currently buy. It was really awesome to sit down with him and learn more about his farm and family. Pancho and his wife Patricia have 4 daughters and 1 son. This year Pancho is processing much more of his own coffee, instead of selling it to the mill. This is largely because of our commitment to continue buying from him and the prospect of us buying more coffee.


Two days in San Vicente:

Now we are in Santa Barbara and working with the San Vicente Dry Mill. Santa Barbara is the most famous part of Honduras to source coffee from right now.  Mostly because many of the “Cup of Excellence” winners come from here. For example the El Sauce coffee we had from CoE in 2010, which I visited today. We cupped 30 coffees in the Mill today, did a few farm visits and tomorrow are doing more farm visits from the coffees that we liked. I found one lot that I like a LOT which wasn’t spoken for and we are going to visit tomorrow.  It is all Bourbon, which is uncommon here with mostly Pacas and Catuai being grown.


Two days in Marcala:

We took a side trip to Marcala on the way to Nicaragua.  Marcala is probably the best known of Honduras’ growing regions.  It is a controlled Denomination of Origin by the Honduran Government, which means the coffees must be from the region of Marcala, and meet the quality specs.  This year however was the first year the mill here has separated “micro-lots”.  We cupped 30 coffees and saw some promise.  We also met an amazing young lady named Nancy Contreras, who has been cupping since she was 14 and now owns a coffee shop, roasts and cups at the mill. 

Last stop, Nicaragua:

Yesterday we crossed the border from Honduras to Nicaragua. This morning we are getting up early to head out to visit some farms. We toured around Ocotal (the city where we are) in two coffee growing regions, Dipilto and Mozonte.  The last day we cupped 30 coffees at Beneficio Las Segovias, before heading to the Managua.  Dipilto and Mozonte also showed tons of promise and some amazing producers with very distinct points of view.  

After two weeks on the road I am exhausted but amazed at the great coffees and people I have been introduced to. Looking forward to returning home to NYC.

(Via SPRUDGE.COM) Newsflash: There is good coffee in New York City on the Upper West Side! The UWS is a largely untapped resource for specialty coffee, perhaps due to the frankly odd way of life that exists there – $6500 a month apartments directly next door to $500 rent controls! doormen that make more during Christmas than you do all year! that remarkable park, right there within walking distance, close enough to call your back yard! – but more likely on account of ludicrously high rents. Opening a new cafe there is risky, but the folks at Irving Farm are betting big by setting up a flagship space at 264 W 79th, between Broadway and Amsterdam, in the heart of the UWS. Here’s some more from the Irving Farm blog:

We’re completely reconstructing a 1500 square-foot space on the ground floor of a historic brownstone on West 79th Street in Manhattan. From the building materials and brewing equipment, to the coffee menu and food offerings, we’re designing a space that will be unlike anything we’ve built before, and a cafe experience we hope will be unlike anything you’ve ever had before!

We’re still several weeks away from opening the doors, but we can’t help our excitement as all the new components begin to fit into place. On the counter, we’ll have a La Marzocco Strada and a beatifully hand-crafted bar for our Kalita pour-over gear—all of this to present our dynamic menu of blended and single-origin coffees that Dan Streetman (Ed. note: that’s him riding the Wooly Mammoth), our Coffee Director, has been working hard to source. In addition to the coffee, our menu will feature craft beers, a small list of wines and local meats and cheeses. And, to take it all in, we’ll have a back lounge with a skylight and a 10-foot community dining table made of reclaimed wood.

Irving Farm’s new cafe is designed by the architecture firm LEVENBETTS (we understand they prefer the full capitalization), whose website is here – we dare you not to lose an hour there.

Let’s put this is New York context, shall we? To reach the new Irving Farm cafe, one takes the oft-ignored 1 train, which, if you haven’t been on it in a while, is actually quite nice – there’s usually the full dot-tracking stop service in each car, and the tone of your train will be its own whole thing, a mix of Columbia students, incognito (or accidental) billionaires, and collected sociological samples from that odd para-world that exists along the Northern finger of Manhattan Island serviced by the 1, all the way to that amazing castle-thing in Fort Tryon Park. Take the 1 and get off on the 79th Street stop – Irving Farm UWS is a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away.

Irving Farm joins Joe NYC’s space on W. 84th (Ecco) and the Momofuku Milk Bar space on Columbus and W. 84th (Stumptown) as outposts for high-end non-Starbucks coffee options on that side of Central Park. It is also worth noting that Irving Farm’s new space will be within mere blocks (and a $19 suggested donation) from the T-Rex fossil on permanent exhibition at the American Natural History Museum. We’re working on an approbative thesis now: “Good Coffee and Dinosaurs: Towards A New Duality”.

More, we say! We want more good roasters represented above and around Central Park, and we want it now! Don’t you realize these neighborhoods are chockablock with curious billionaires, surreal vistas, and all manner of cool / weird stuff to do? Coffee is such a lovely way to enjoy and explore New York, and we don’t just mean the New York below 34th Street. This very promising development from Irving Farm gives us one more excellent excuse to go see the Aptosaurus, the wooly mammoth, and the Hayden Planetarium….summer softball in the park, anyone?

We’re building a new cafe, and we think you’ll love it! 

Earlier this year, we mentioned that we’re working on a new project. We’re completely reconstructing a 1500 square-foot space on the ground floor of a historic brownstone at 224 West 79th Street in Manhattan. From the building materials and brewing equipment, to the coffee menu and food offerings, we’re designing a space that will be unlike anything we’ve built before, and a cafe experience we hope will be unlike anything you’ve ever had before!

We’re still several weeks away from opening the doors, but we can’t help our excitement as all the new components begin to fit into place. On the counter, we’ll have a La Marzocco Strada and a beatifully hand-crafted bar for our Kalita pour-over gear—all of this to present our dynamic menu of blended and single-origin coffees that Dan Streetman, our Coffee Director, has been working hard to source. In addition to the coffee, our menu will feature craft beers, a small list of wines and local meats and cheeses. And, to take it all in, we’ll have a back lounge with a skylight and a 10-foot community dining table made of reclaimed wood.

There’s so much more to come, as we prepare to open. We’ll bring you more updates soon! For now, we hope you enjoy the rendering above, courtesy of our friends at LEVENBETTS, who have designed the space.

This past Friday and Saturday Irving Farm got the chance to connect and reconnect with some of our favorite farmers, chefs, and agronomists at the Just Food Conference in Manhattan.

1,000 members of the local food movement, including our friends from the Stone Barns Center, gathered to learn more about each other’s interests and initiatives… and, of course, to drink a lot of coffee! Tickets for the event sold out, and the morning crowds kept Jake Leonti (Director of Wholesale) and Miguel Rios (barista at 56 Seventh Ave) busy serving coffee faster than they could brew it.

Special shout out to Organic Valley; pairing their great milk from NY dairy farms with our coffee made a great combination! We’re happy to have had the opportunity to be a sponsor and to have had Dan Streetman (Director of Coffee) participate as a workshop panelist.

Third Place for Irving Farm in the Brewer’s Cup at the Northeast Regional Barista Competition! Go Tamara!

Last weekend, Irving Farm was involved with this year’s Northeast Regional Barista Competition.  Every year it is a gathering of the best baristas from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Maryland.  At the event there are two competitions.  The Barista Competition, and the Brewer’s Cup.  This year from Irving Farm our Director of Education Tamara Vigil competed in both competitions and took Third Place in the Brewer’s Cup!