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The Santa Isabel Farm was founded in 1899 by Federico Keller and his wife, Isabel, and it is now operated by their grandsons, Alex and Martin. Positioned among a group of hills, lagoons and volcanic mountains in Santa Rosa, about 40 miles southeast of Guatemala City, 60% of Santa Isabel is planted with coffee under the shade of a native tree forest while the remaining area is a protected nature reserve.
Federico Keller was committed to sustainable agriculture with initiatives that ranged from reforestation and wildlife preservation to building a school, providing a health clinic and three meals a day for up to 1800 workers, and enhancing infrastructure outside the farm by maintaining roads and constructing bridges.
Alex and Martin have built upon their grandfather’s original vision by leading Santa Isabel to become one of the first farms in Guatemala with Rainforest Alliance Certification, and in 2005 they began the transition to 100% organic farming. They compost the pulp and waste to repurpose as fertilizer (at a ratio of two pounds fertilizer for every pound of coffee produced), use recycled water to process the coffee, and there’s even a canal planted with lilies that naturally treat the wastewater coming out of the coffee mill.
This area has been particularly hard hit by the pervasive, and very serious, coffee leaf rust (a fungus known as Roya) forcing Alex and Martin to make some difficult decisions. Over the next few years they plan to replant the entire farm, unearthing the stumps of each coffee shrub by hand and replacing them with seedlings. The first phase of this project consisted of replanting 50% of the farm which amounted to 700,000 plants.
Faced with the reality of introducing heartier and more rust-resistant varieties such as Catisik, Alex and Martin are proactively experimenting with processing and fermentation. Our Green Coffee Buyer, Dan Streetman, was able to taste ten experimental samples on his last visit and was greatly relieved to discover a surprising sweetness and clean aftertaste in the cup, an auspicious harbinger of Santa Isabel’s future. They’re also planting a variety of grasses in between the new rows of coffee plants and welcoming a few herds of sheep to the farm which will help with fertilizer and weeding.
Every trip to Santa Isabel is a master class in biodynamic agriculture as Alex smashes rocks to demonstrate how microbiology breaks down the material to make minerals accessible to plants in the soil, or flips a log to reveal healthy fungi and illuminate its life-giving relationship to tree root systems. (On our next trip, we also hope to track down Federico Keller’s album that he recorded in 1973 entitled “Song to the Tree”.)
Irving Farm is incredibly lucky to have received a third of Santa Isabel’s viable harvest this year, and what it may have lacked in quantity it exceeds in taste.
NOTES FROM OUR CUPPING LAB:
Every Tuesday we gather the team at the Irving Farm Loft in Manhattan to cup our new arrivals. Santa Isabel elicited the following descriptors—
Pineapple, Rosemary, Oak, Savory, Round & Clean
Add your own impressions below...
This coffee is certified USDA Organic, meaning its production did not involve the use of synthetic substances such as most pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
Very good flavor - very mild - no bitterness. Brew it to the strength you like.
This coffee is the best I've had in years. Smooth and rich at the same time with little acid. Balanced and Delicious!
Available for limited times in small quantities, our carefully curated micro-lots are single origin coffees at their purest. Not only are the beans sourced from one farm, they're sourced from one micro-lot of land on that farm, ensuring a highly consistent flavor and experience. This is a wonderful way to sample the true, amazing potential of coffee. We've selected these lots despite their small quantity because we see something in them that's truly special--and we think you will, too.
True to their name, single origin coffees consist of beans sourced from a farm or community in one, specific region. Seasonal selections from around the world, our line of single origin coffees focuses on the highest quality product from coffee producers who take their work as seriously as we do.
Handcrafted from exceptional single origin coffees, our signature blends are carefully developed in our Hudson Valley roastery to please drinkers day after day, year round.
Offering exceptional flavor to coffee lovers who prefer to go without the caffeine, our Decaf selections stay true to taste with carefully blended, naturally water-processed decaffeinated coffees.
Select this option to receive whole bean coffee that can be ground to your preference just before brewing.
Select this option to receive coffee ground for metal screen brewing devices (e.g., French press).
Select this option to receive coffee ground for percolator or other similar brewing devices.
Select this option to receive coffee ground for flat-bottom filters, such as those used on automatic coffee makers or Kalita Wave brewers.
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Select this option to receive coffee ground for espresso brewing (e.g. espresso machine or stove-top Moka pot).
12oz per week (About enough coffee to brew 10 cups each week.)
12oz every two weeks (About enough coffee to brew 5 cups each week.)
12oz each month (About enough coffee to brew 2 to 3 cups each week.)