Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2016 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media
I don’t drink coffee, but I’m suddenly inspired to start.
The bloom of the hydrated grind, the cherry surrounding the bean, the harvest that makes or breaks a family farm — all steeped in terroir — contribute to your morning ritual and inspire me to think differently about my morning beverage.
Sourcing direct from the farm is everything. Even coffee goes beyond local with global investments that drive dairy and sugar commodities too. With one sip you too are invested in agriculture. And you thought it was all about caffeine!
Much like wine, coffee flavor is affected by terroir (soil, altitude and other climatic factors). There are 65 coffee producing countries between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and in Ethiopia alone, there are reportedly over 10,000 varietals.
David Elwell and Steve Leven are making coffee that cares in our own backyard, bringing community together with a brand new local Roastery and Tasting Room in Millerton. They create conscious capitalism, economic development and a better tasting brew with a green buying program that focuses on direct relationships with farmers, sustainable practices and a philosophy we all should follow — quality over quantity.
Irving Farm was founded in 1996, when Elwell and Leven opened a much-needed neighborhood café in Gramercy Park, hoping to provide a space where people could gather and drink great coffee. At a time before “handcrafted,” “organic” and “fair-trade” had yet to enter the coffee drinker’s lexicon, the two trailblazing college friends distinguished their Gramercy shop from other java huts in New York by stocking it with specialty blends and single-origins, making trips to international growers.
Shortly thereafter, they decided to convert a carriage house in bucolic Dutchess County into a roastery, determined to learn the craft of coffee roasting themselves. This proved to be more of a challenge than they had anticipated; before the movement known as the Third Wave of Coffee revolutionized the industry in the late 90s, there weren’t as many resources available to novice roasters. But with help from friends and roasting mentors, as well as feedback from customers, they learned by doing and became pioneers in the exploding coffee scene in New York City.
Fast-forward 20 years. Now Irving Farm is one of New York’s most beloved hometown roasters with seven cafés, a bustling wholesale business and the only SCAA-certified Training and Education Loft in New York City.
Now, if we all tell the Town Board to open the Roastery doors to the public, we can together experience the tour Jacob Griffin took me on to experience a deliciously brewed business in a wonderland of aroma at the Irving Farm location in Millerton.
“Awesome farmers” was Griffin’s opening remarks as he explained how farm partners are so important to the culture, knowing who they are and what they grow means visits overseas and builds a better, more responsible business. The stories behind each variety are worth repeating from “super proud” multi-generation family farms providing communities with resources, opportunities for women and economic development vital to build strong rural regions and offer international trade.
In only an hour, we visited Asnakech’s heirloom variety from Ethiopia (Amaro Gayo), the Salaverria Family’s bourbon variety from El Salvador (El Molino) and Alex Keller’s biodynamic varieties from Guatemala (Santa Isabel), all with our taste buds.
There are only two varieties of coffee that matter and are cultivated for drinking: Arabica and Robusta, each of which translates into various varietals and flavors. Once roasted, pretty much all coffee beans look the same, although roasting is proprietary and ranges from high tech to sun dried. But did you know that there are actually dozens of different varieties of coffee beans?
“Ripe cherries” are key to better coffee. Those red “cherries” on the coffee “tree” plant yield a seed within — the coffee bean! This is the seed of that “cherry” fruit that grows on coffee plants. When handpicked, connoisseurs choose only the ripest “cherries” in a “sweep,” which are then sorted by character, ripened, then milled, removing the cherry “pulp” from the seed in a short fermentation to remove the thin skin (mucilage) that envelops the seed prior to an extensive selection process to ensure no damage by pests or broken bits.
Specialty “graded” coffee comes in two forms: specialty (no primary defects) and premium (can have more defects). Harvesting makes all the difference in this allocation — and catching the best price for the raw green beans that begin their journey to become your morning cup.
Weather, pests and season make or break a coffee crop, as the trees are sensitive and the trade is tedious and risky. Irving Farm only works with producers that plant in dense bio diverse forests because coffee plants don’t like full sun, but this increases risk because of tropical disease.
Quality in coffee is based on cupping scores and Irving Farm has a cupping room on site to guarantee your “joe” is the highest quality with the most responsible production. Community-driven relationships are indeed meaningful in Millerton at the Irving Farm roastery and certifications are mindful, allowing every minute of our educational tour to be memorable.
When you trust your food sources, know organically grown is an important practice and pay a fair trade price, you invest in the future of food and a socially responsible community that makes sustainability possible — and gives back. Don’t forget to add local milk; those Farmers will thank you too! FarmOn!
To contact Tessa Edick, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find FarmOn! Foundation on Facebook.