I had elaborate coffee touring plans laid out for my recent trip to New York which included visits to many of the new cafes opening like wildfire around the city as well as some less frequently visited spots. My slightly too busy calendar and a compelling need for time away from planning forced me assume a less ambitious itinerary than my last visit, but I still managed to get in a pretty good tour. Of course, you wouldn’t know about this trip, given my less than punctual reporting on a trip that is now approaching nearly a month old. So before I completely forget all traces of that visit, I’d better commit my memories to paper blog.
First on my list was Irving Farm, a roaster located 90 miles upstate from New York City, but with two cafes in the lower parts of Manhattan. In retrospect, I probably should have visited 71 Irving Place, the original cafe and restaurant. Then again, the 7th Avenue cafe is focused singularly on coffee service. Besides, who needs a full fledged menu when a few doors down from the 7th Avenue cafe lies the hearty old-school, donut wonder known in neon as the Donut Pub (it’s a bit less high-quality than the Donut Plant, but come on, it’s called the Donut Pub!).
Irving Farm seems oddly trapped in that nether region of being something better than the public actually understands, yet either not good, or perhaps not hip enough, to receive attention from the coffee cognoscenti. A quick scan of their website revealed something of a knowledgeable approach to coffee – plenty of single origin and terroir specific coffees – along with a few crowd-pleasing mass market concessions – flavored coffee. My arrival met with a similarly mixed reaction. I was happy to find a 3 group La Marzocco Linea sitting on top of the counter as well as a small collection of brewed coffees behind the counter (none flavored). Yet, I was slightly turned off by the lack of a roast date on the two walls of bags of beans for sale.
Overall, the interior was nice. It was a small and certainly pleasing enough place to sit for a few minutes or perhaps even longer while enjoying a cup of coffee and one of the small selection of pastries available (no full menu here). The dark wood interior and wood floors seemed classic, yet slightly upscale – nice without traversing into the inspiring.
Irving Farm Coffee Company serves no less than 4 coffees brewed commercially into carafes, including 2 different blends, a decaf blend and a single origin coffee. I opted for the last of the bunch, which that day, turned out to be their Brazil Daterra. It was a pleasant, nutty coffee, that tended towards the darker end of the spectrum for my tastes without dipping into burnt or roasty. It maintained nice through line of a non-specific acidity. This medium to full bodied coffee didn’t offer a lot of complexity or much in the way of “wow,” but was well-brewed and in some ways more pleasing than thinner-bodied cups of coffee from more prominent roasters I’ve had in the past in New York.
My espresso arrived with a nice red crema, slightly bubbled, covering a fairly standard sized double shot. It seemed a tad thin and didn’t have the most appealing mouthfeel, but was overall much better than I expected and actually good. It was a mellow, slightly creamy shot with orange-like brightness and vanilla laden sweetness.
I would say the real shame of a place like Irving Farm is probably its location. Farther north and this would certainly be one of the better cups of coffee in that part of Manhattan. Given where it lies, it will probably never be able to fully compete for the types of clients (like me) heading to more prestigious coffee spots not that far away. Then again, there are a lot of people in New York. Uplifting the average lot’s daily coffee quality this much is no small task, indeed.