In the lead up to This Coffee Thing #1, we've sent out a brief survey to our presenters and panelists. Liz Dean runs Irving Farm’s beautiful 79th St. shop and is heading up our hospitality panel. If she’s anywhere near as good at asking questions as she was at answering these (she is), it’s going to be great.
Who are one or two coffee heroes of yours?
One of my coffee heroes is Asnakech Thomas, who is the producer of Irving Farm's delicious Ethiopia Amaro Gayo. Not only does she produce consistently excellent coffee that is a huge favorite of staff and customers alike (I've received personal e-mails from customers BEGGING me to put Amaro Gayo on as our single origin espresso!), but she's also incredibly involved in her local community. She's been working on projects to help raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, getting better access to healthcare for women (especially in childbirth), getting a bank to open to fuel local economy, etc. She's a total bad ass and so worthy of admiration for all that she does.
What musician most makes music most like the way you make coffee?
This is such a good question! And a hard one, because I feel a lot of pressure to know more about music than I do. But honestly the first band that came to mind was The Strokes, or maybe Pavement or even early Weezer. I think the way I make coffee is solid but also straightforward and earnest and consistent. I work in a really, really busy shop and I don't have time to do crazy experimental shit (even though I sometimes want to!). And because of my wide customer base it's important to me that I make coffee that everybody can get behind. So, I'm not necessarily going to blow your mind but I will make sure you have something solid to rock out to and enjoy.
What's your favorite horror movie?
I don't like horror movies so my answer is technically "none". I'm especially not into like, slasher gore shit or anything that seems intentionally made to make you jump out of your seat. I can appreciate horror movies that are mostly psychological (Rosemary's Baby, for example) or ones that are just really visually interesting. A recent movie that yes, scared the crap out of me, but that I thought was really good was It Follows. It was a well-done movie and beautifully shot. Also had a killer soundtrack, no pun intended.
What scares you most about coffee?
I think I often grapple over wondering whether or not it's all bullshit. I think it scares me to feel like something I care so much about and invest so much of my time and energy into learning about or talking about might just be total bullshit. I remember reading recipes from I think the Aeropress or the Brewer's Cup competition and competitors were listing very specific sources of water with like, pH levels and I remember just being like, "What the fuck, does this really matter?" and I think it scared me to both feel like, yes, it does, and also, no, it doesn't, this is just such nonsense. I feel like I'm constantly reconciling those feelings about my work. It's even worse when I have to explain to non-coffee people what it is that I do for a living because people just assume that this is just a side job for me. They're always like, "What do you really do?" and I'm like, this. This is what I do. And obviously there are days when I am super proud and I just love what I do and I love and admire the people I work with but there are also days where I'm like, it's just fucking coffee.