When we have a question about coffee, we often turn to Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. With the roaster’s 20th birthday fast approaching in 2016, Irving Farm has opened a new office and training space in Chelsea to broaden its offering of classes and educate both the industry and the public about the drink they live for. “The Loft,” as the space is called, on 19th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, is full of dark wood and iron, plus a lot of crow-themed knickknacks to rep the black bird that makes up the Irving Farm logo.
Teresa Von Fuchs, Irving Farm’s wholesale director and an award-winning barista and master trainer in her own right, gave us a tour of the new space. Though the classes offered there are professional in their content, this new space allows them to officially invite the public, and the growing population of serious home baristas, to join in.
The Loft has both La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli espresso machines as well as plenty of less hefty and techie brewing systems. One of the benefits of the new space, according to Von Fuchs, is that they will be able to offer equipment repair and maintenance classes — an important skill for home baristas, since lack of upkeep is a great way to destroy a $4,500 home brewing machine. Said Von Fuchs, “Especially for home users, that’s really important. If you don’t care for a machine, you can buy the most expensive coffee in the world, but you’re still preparing it poorly.” (Find out how Irving Farm director of coffee Dan Streetman brews his coffee here.)
The tasting rooms can hold up to 20 people and offer a lot more privacy than the Irving Farm team is used to. “Before, we were all in one room. You would be teaching a class while someone was eating their lunch and Bill was cleaning something with acid. So in this space all the rooms can close off. They are mostly soundproof. We can even black out all the lights,” said Von Fuchs.
The lights are an important element because the Specialty Coffee Association of America standards require uniform lighting when baristas are testing for their certifications and some extra-special certification tests even require total darkness. When asked whether or not that’s a little crazy, Von Fuchs said, ”If we are doing testing and those things are not standardized, then how can we be sure that we’re all tasting seeing and smelling the same things? That’s why the blackout curtains are important.” Not all of Irving Farm’s classes are that intense though. Coming up in July at “Barista Fundamentals,” “Intro to Cupping and Tasting” and “Latte Art and Work Flow,” among others.
Some of Irving Farm’s most basic classes are on the subject of “cupping,” or tasting, coffee. Tasting notes like red berries, tobacco, chocolate and melon are not just for the professionals anymore. They are starting to show up on packaging and grocery store signage. A scent kit like this Le Nez du Café Revelation Kit is used to help tasters isolate and then pick out the individual notes from a particular coffee. Once they learn to identify and describe how coffee tastes and smells, they can go on to learn why it tastes that way.
The Irving Farm team has an unsettling affection for crows, and not just because they adorn the company’s packaging. They see them as a hardy and brave, plus free-flying and bold. Said Von Fuchs, “Crows are monogamous and they’re very loyal.” Just like coffee drinkers?