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.