Origin trip - Battenkill Valley Creamery

Great coffee deserves great milk. We sent our education team on a field trip to visit our dairy suppliers, Battenkill Valley Creamery, to learn how they keep their product's quality as high as they do. Our educator Kris learned so much from the trip, we just had to share...

"After using Battenkill Valley Creamery products for countless drinks in our cafes, I was beyond excited to visit the farm and observe the work that goes into making such an exceptional product. Having no experience with diary farms, I didn't really know what to expect from the visit, so it is easy to say that it exceeded my expectations. 

We arrived at 11:30 am and were greeted by Seth McEarchron, owner and 5th generation dairy farmer. Seth was an incredibly gracious host and guide, talking us through their entire process. BVC does all of their bottling on-site, which allows them to maintain the hight quality of their product and we were lucky enough to see this on our tour.

BVC refers to their milk as 'farm fresh', which made a lot of sense once Seth walked us through their process. During their busy season (Sept. - Dec) BVC schedules three production days a week. The raw milk is moved to the creamery after milking, where it is process based on fat content. Battenkill uses a low pasteurization process which, though it takes more time and makes their product more perishable, it is integral to the overall flavor of the milk. The milk is then homogenized, cooled and bottles. Once bottled, the milk is crated and loaded directly onto a truck which drives straight to their distribution partners in New York City, and delivered shortly thereafter to restaurants and cafes throughout the city. The milk we use everyday was milked from a cow just days prior to enjoying in our cafes...truly 'farm fresh.'

The cows are a mix of Jersey and Holstein cows which produce a much higher fat content. Typically, their Whole Milk is around 4% in fat content (vs the industry standard of 3.35%) which provides great mouthfeel and structure while steaming.

After watching the bottling process, we visited the cows and their calves that were just weeks old. Seth told us that cows really like having a steady routine so they do their best to keeping to the same milk schedule. They are fed a high energy diet of corn and hay silage which is necessary as cows loose a lot of energy through the milking process.

Talking with Set, it's clear that he really cares about his animals. BVC's milk is "functionally organic" as they reserve the right to treat their cows with antibiotics should they get sick. Cows rest on mattresses lined in sawdust (replaced regularly) when resting between milking and the pens are cleaned regularly. Large fans line the open air pens to ensure the environment is nice and cool - just how the cows like it.

Like our company, Battenkill Valley Creamery is dedicated to small-batch production of a high quality product. Huge thanks to Seth and his team for having us over and for all the work they put into producing such a great product to work with an enjoy."

Visiting with Pedro Echavarria

Deaton Pigot, the green coffee buyer for Toby's Estate Coffee, has returned from his origin trip to Colombia. Here's what he had to share about his visit with Pedro Echavarria, head of the Santa Barbara farm.

"Last week when I was in Colombia visiting coffee farms, I had the chance to stay with Pedro in Medellin - an offer I couldn't refuse. I met Pedro on last year's trip to origin and this was a great opportunity to reconnect. Pedro's farm supplies us with our Santa Barbara coffee, which is a large component in our Flatiron Espresso Blend and they supply us with our newest decaf coffee. 

Pedro is the head of the estate and is in charge of approximately 400 hectares of coffee, a mill, a processing plant, cold brew facility and one of the best cafes in Medellin, Pergamino - an impressive operation to see.

I was excited to learn that Pedro has begun to source micro-lots outside of the Antioquia region, where he currently grows most of his specialty coffee. We cupped some of the coffees from these new lots and there were some really wonderful offerings on the table. I am excited to see how Pedro continues to develop his farm. I can't wait to try his next batch of coffees and have our Toby's customers experience them also."

Colombia 2015

Palestine is a new area for us to explore as we typically buy from around the Los Couchos area - we found Rafael Mateus' La Esperanza a month ago on the cupping table and purchased this very small lot immediately, getting to meet him today on his farm is awesome, we respect this producer and his work.

Origin Trip 2015

Today our green coffee buyer Deaton Pigot is heading off to travel throughout Colombia, visiting farms of coffees that we carry and also visiting new farms. The first farm Deaton is visiting is the Santa Barbara farm. This farm provides us with the Colombian component found in our Flatiron blend along with our newest decaf offering, the Santa Barbara, which is decaffeinated using the mountain water process.

Deaton's host is Pedro Miguel Echavarria. Pedro runs the Santa Barbara farm and the two met on Deaton's last trip to Colombia this past September and have been establishing this direct farm relationship since. We love working with the Santa Barbara Estate because of their passion for excellence and their transparent harvesting practices. They prioritize their employee's coffee education and put the quality of the cherries first. Maintaining these standards results in excellent coffee, which is why we've been vigorously pursuing this relationship.

Deaton will be making a few other stops on his trip, the first being to Bogota, Colombia's capital city. There he will be cupping a number of different coffees with our exporters, Virmax. After Santa Barbara, Deaton will head to La Esperanza - more on that later- and from there, he will travel to San Augustin, where we source the main component in our Bedford Blend. We wish Deaton the best of luck on his trip and are excited to hear about his travels when he returns. Follow us on Instagram - @tobysbrooklyn- for updates!

An Argument for 'Polished' Immersion Brewing for your Brew Bar

Our head roaster, Clark Le Compte, recently published another piece in Daily Coffee News about the problems posed with incorporating the pour over method onto a busy cafe bar.

"At home, where time and space are greater than in a busy coffee shop, this enjoyment can be fully realized. But in a busy cafe, pourovers can transition from enjoyable ritual to essential, sometimes time-sucking, duty. This can be problematic, since many conscientious consumers view a pourover bar, manual brew bar, slow bar, or whatever you might call it, as a key signal of a contemporary shop’s focus on coffee quality."

You can read the full article here.

To Market To Market

This summer Toby's Estate Coffee is heading uptown to 230 Park Avenue, next door to Grand Central Terminal, to join a collective of like-minded foodies at UrbanSpace Vanderbilt. Toby's will be the exclusive coffee provider for the market and it will be our first uptown location following the opening of our West Village and Flatiron stores.

We have designed a unique bar that will bring old school service back to the fast paced city, with two custom espresso stations including a La Marzocco PB and a ModBar for an intimate espresso experience.

In addition to our espresso offerings, we will have a selection of changing pour overs, brewed filter options and our signature 18 hour steeped cold brew. We will be expanding our menu to include Japanese Drip, a sweeter, more refined iced coffee beverage, and in collaboration with our friends at Van Leeuwen we are excited to offer milkshakes and affogatos.

We look forward to hosting you this summer. Stay tuned for updates.

Introducing our Prima Blend

Filter and espresso blends have long been a staple, and often signature, of coffee roasters. Recently, single origin coffees have taken center stage in specialty coffee, but that hasn't stopped Toby's Estate Coffee and others from creating exciting new blends the stand up to the compelling flavors of single origins. Different coffee roasters have different philosophies on blends; so we asked our Green Coffee Buyer, Deaton Pigot and our Head Roaster, Clark Le Compte, to talk about the role of blends in specialty coffee and why we blend. 

'By focusing on the flavor," says Green Buyer, Deaton, "in addition to the origin of the coffee, we are able to keep current crop coffees in our blends." A blend with only two or three coffees produces a more articulate cup with easily defined tasting notes, which is why Toby's Estate Coffee caps our blends at three components. As the amount of varieties in a blend increases, it is easier to create a consistent flavor profile, which is why some roasters will use as many as seven coffee origins in a single blend. "The drawback to using five or seven varieties, " says Deaton, "is that the blend can have a muddier flavor profile." The challenge with using fewer varieties lies in finding current crop coffees from different origins with different seasonality that compliment each other as well." 

Blends are created one of two ways: pre-roast or post-roast. Pre-roast takes the individual components and roasts them together in one batch. Post roast, which is how Toby's Estate roasts, blends the components after they have been roasted individually. Clark explains, "by roasting each coffee individually, then blending, we can better and more accurately highlight the best qualities of coffees."  

Our newest blend is the Toby's Estate Prima Blend. Our previous offering 'Winter Blend' evoked a sense of holiday nostalgia with its mulberry notes, and the Prima Blend offers a fresh start to the upcoming spring season, with notes of peach, cantaloupe and subtle vanilla. The Primavera from Colombia was the starting point for this blend for its notes of plum and vanilla. Our roasting department experimented with many different variations before finding that the El Tambor from Guatemala, known for its sweetness, was the right choice to pair with the Primavera. We hope you enjoy. 

Brewers Cup : From the Shadows to the Cutting Edge in Manual Brewing

Clark recently wrote about his experiences at the Brewers Cup for Daily Coffee News, which you can read on their website here. 

"An arguably more accessible competition than other coffee championships, Brewers Cup requires few tools without a reliance on fancy machinery. It is truly a test of skill - the single skill of coffee brewing"

"It seems every year, some creative freestylings of Brewers Cup competitors challenge traditional thought and pique the interest of the industry at large.

Sifting ground coffee is one example that has now put brewers in two camps: those who value even extractions from uniform, sieved grounds; and those who believe a variable grind creates depth of flavor. Last we saw 'polished immersion' - brewing coffee in a cupping bowl then pouring it through a filter - and this year we see competitors like Rinaldo modifying the idea, and placing.

At its core, Brewers Cup is less a competition and more a showcase of exploration.

With its relatively open-ended competition platform, Brewers Cup asks the questions, 'Where can we go?' and 'How can we get there?' "

                     - Excerpted from Brewers Cup : From the Shadows to the Cutting Edge in Manual Brewing

Home Brew Tips from Clark

There are many joys that come from manual brewing at home, and we asked Clark Le Compte, Toby's Estate roaster, to help put together some tips for brewing at home. Clark will be representing Toby's Estate Coffee at the US Brewers Cup Championship in Long Beach, Ca at the end of the month.


Precision in brewing is very important to achieve that perfect cup. Being mindful of your water to coffee ratio, brew time and grind size makes it easier to find the right recipe. 


If you're just starting to make pour overs at home, Clark recommends starting with a 6 cup Chemex. The Chemex has been celebrated for its elegant design and there are plenty of online resources to help guide you in your brewing. Using a medium sized grind and paper filter, this brew methods allows more flexibility and freedom in your brew style and produces a smooth, silky mouth feel and a clean cup. 

You will want to keep a consistent pour. With manual brewing, the flow rate changes the brew time. A longer brew time will create a more concentrated flavor. Using something like a Hario Buono kettle will allow you more control over your brew time than a typical stovetop tea kettle with its wide spout.

Some scales can measure weight along with a digital timer, which will help you track both the brew time and volume of your coffee. Clark was lucky enough to be chosen to demo the new Acaia coffee scale as part of his Brewers Cup training. The Acaia scale links itself to a mobile app and Clark has been using it to create brewing profiles. There's no industry standard on the 'best' way to pour water over coffee, but the ability to track and share brew profiles with others creates a game changing dialogue.


Maybe this goes without saying, but starting with a great coffee bean is essential for home brewing. Clark's current favorite Toby's Estate Coffee offering is El Rodeo from Costa Rica. On a Chemex, the Rodeo offers a tangerine sweetness balanced out by savory notes of toasted almond.

If you're interested in hands on learning, you can sign up for our Home Brew Methods class at 

Toby's Estate at the US Brewers Cup

We are very excited to update you on the progress of our head roaster Clark Le Compte. This past November, Clark went to Durham, NC to compete in the South East Regional Brewers Cup Competition and took home first place. This February, Clark will travel to Long Beach, California to compete for the US Brewers Cup Championship. 

For those of you that aren't familiar, competitors in the Brewers Cup are challenged to individually brew the perfect cup of coffee for three judges, using the brew method of their choice. Competitors have ten minutes to brew three cups of coffee for each judge to rate the overall taste description, customer service and overall impression of his performance.

Clark competed with our Ethiopian Heirloom Yirgacheffe from Konga, an award winning and fair trade certified co-op. In his competition, Clark combined two different roast profiles for the cups he brewed. During one of the roasts, he dropped the coffee at a high temperature, which creates a slightly darker roasted coffee. He then roasted a second batch of coffee at a lower temperature, which creates a lighter roasted coffee. Each cup he brewed for the judges combined equal parts of each roast. 

Clark employed a sifting technique in his competition. Why sifting? To quote Clark, "Sifting these Yirgacheffe grounds is a tip of the hat to the traditional coffee ceremony of Ethiopia. Sieves may be new to the competition circuit, but for those using mortar and pestle, sieving ground coffee is old news. Ethiopians have been doing it for centuries." Using the coarsest setting and a handheld sifter, Clark sifted out the largest and finest grinds, allowing him to brew a uniformly ground coffee. 

Transforming a Honduran School

La Escuela De La Piedrona with a fixed roof and a brand new look

We have just returned from Marcala, where we spent a week putting the funds raised during our Honduras Education Drive to good use. Earlier this year we ran the drive to help support the school, La Escuela De La Piedrona, built on land donated by producing partners Moises Herrera and Marysabel Caballero. We successfully raised $4500 and sent Barista Emily Dullea and Project Manager Joe Schafran down to help with the work on the school.

We arrived with the plan to help seal and paint the cinder block school, and were able to spend the week helping to do so. But, while the Honduran government helps the school by supplying beans and corn flour for the children's lunch, the school's only storage room also had a leak in its roof. The silver lining to the current drought in Honduras is that reduced rains had meant less ruined food, but the structure still needed fixing. During our time painting, Moises helped to oversee a complete replacement of the roof, ensuring better weather-proof food storage.

Now, with the painting all done, the school looks like a brand new building, and the classrooms are a much brighter and better place to learn. There are also still funds available to help improve the school. Currently, the head teacher Allan Omar Pineda Vasquez is the only instructor in charge of six grades, sixty students, and two classrooms. The school will greatly benefit from having another educator so one teacher can remain dedicated to each classroom and the pressure on Allan is halved. Marysabel and Moises are excited to make this a reality and are helping to find a quality teacher.

The other major problem the students face involves their parents, who bear the burden of paying for all the books, uniforms and supplies their children will need. In poor, rural districts that responsibility can easily become overwhelming, so any leftover funds will be used to help subsidize the purchase of books and supplies for the school. We are excited to see the final results of this endeavor and to continue to find ways to work with and support La Escuela De La Piedrona.

A Brand New Ethiopian Offering

We are excited to offer a fresh, new coffee from the Borboya Washing Station in the Yirgacheffe microregion of Ethiopia!

Last November our Green Coffee Buyer Deaton Pigot visited the Sidamo and Yirgacheffe regions of Ethiopia to visit the farmers and washing stations we currently work with, and to develop new relationships. As a direct result of his time in the Gelana Abaya hills and the relationships he forged while there, we were able to find this beautiful Borboya Yirgacheffe.

With a classic Yirgacheffe profile - citrus acidity and peach-like sweetness, complemented by notes of jasmine and tea - it is the perfect bright and sweet coffee for the summer season.

Offering a New Limited Cupping Series

During the month of July our popular Public Cupping class will feature a new cupping experience exploring our signature blends and the seasonal coffees we use to create them. 

In this Deconstruction Cupping series we will explore the reasons for blending coffees and the art of creating balance. Toby's Estate Coffee Educators will demystify the art of blending by leading participants through the cupping experience and taking apart multiple blends.

Every Tuesday this month we will focus on two espresso blends, the Bedford Blend and Flatiron Blend, and two filter blends, the Brooklyn Blend and Wythe Blend. Those familiar with these blends from our Brooklyn Cafe and Flatiron Espresso Bar now have the opportunity to experience how multiple single origin coffees can complement each other to create the final flavor profile.

To book a spot in the Deconstruction Cupping series held each Tuesday in July at 10 AM, email or use our online form. Saturday cupping classes will be held as normal. Class sizes are limited so reserve your place early!

Helping a Honduran community

Marysabel Caballero and Moises Herrera

Since we opened, our Green Coffee Buyer, Deaton Pigot, has been buying coffee from Marysabel Caballero and Moises Herrera, producers in Marcala, Honduras. We've been consistently impressed by the hard work and dedication they put into their craft, and the results show through in the cup. 

While the Caballeros work hard at producing quality coffee, they are equally dedicated to building up Marcala into a strong, vibrant community. The two producers have given up a portion of their farmland, and built a school for the local children, but still need help building the school's infrastructure, and their passion for this project has inspired Toby's Estate Coffee to get involved.

We've set a goal of raising money throughout the month of February, through the sale of La Escuela, a coffee produced on the farm lot on which the school is situated. The funds raised will be used in the local economy to help upgrade the school in terms of basic maintenance, and providing proper furniture and educational materials.

Throughout the month, La Escuela will be featured on the pour-over menu at our Brooklyn cafe and as a filter offering at our Flatiron Espresso Bar. Two dollars from each cup sold will go towards the project, and three dollars from all retail bags of La Escuela will also be reserved for this fund.

The La Escuela is also available for purchase online.

How to brew a Chemex at home

What you will need:

40 grams fresh roasted coffee

640ml H20 (filtered water, heated to 205F)

Grinder (coarse grind)


Chemex filters




Your Favorite Mug 

1. Place Chemex filter in Chemex brewer (three folds facing the spout side).

2. Pre wet filter, discard water. Place Chemex on scale and tare down to zero.

3. Begin timer and slowly pour 60ml water over grounds. Allow coffee to pre-wet for 45 seconds.

4. Slowly pour hot water in small circular motions. Start at the center of the grounds. Avoid directly pouring water around the sides of the Chemex.

5. The final brew time should finish around 4:00 minutes.

6. Discard filter.

7. Enjoy delicious coffee out of your favorite mug.

How to brew an Espro Press at home

What you will need:

20g or 60g fresh roasted coffee 

200ml or 700ml H2O (filtered water, heated to 205F)

Grinder (coarse grind)

Espro Press




Your Favorite Mug

This recipe uses 20g coffee: 300ml filtered water, or 60g coffee: 1,000ml filtered water.

1. Pre heat Espro Press, discard water.

2. Insert freshly ground coffee.

3. Place Espro Press on scale and tare down to zero.

4. Begin timer and slowly pour 100/300 ml water over grounds, immediately stir ensuring even saturation.

5. Fill remaining 200/700 ml water and carefully place filter on top.

6. Carefully press plunger at 4:00 minute mark.

7. Enjoy delicious coffee out of your favorite mug.

How to brew a V60 at home

What you will need:

23 grams fresh roasted coffee

360ml H2O (filtered water, heated to 205F)

Grinder (medium, sand-like grind)




V-60 Cone

V-60 Cone Filter

Your Favorite Mug

1. Fold ridged edge of V60 filter and insert into cone.

2. Thoroughly pre-wet filter to avoid any paper flavor.

3. Add freshly ground coffee. Place brew setup on scale and tare to zero.

4. Begin timer. Using slow circular motions, pre-wet grounds with 60ml hot water.

5. Immediately stir grounds, ensuring even saturation, and let sit for 45 seconds.

6. Using the same steady circular motions, add water until the overall weight is 360ml.

7. Total brew time should be around 2:30 - 3:00 minutes.

7. Enjoy delicious coffee out of your favorite mug.

A trip to Panama

This week we ran an internal competition with our wholesale and barista team members. Everyone was asked to document a dinner experience, with the prize being a trip to Panama for the Best of Panama.

We are excited to announce two winners - Amie Raskin from our wholesale sales team, and Tyler Schlieman from our barista team. Amie and Tyler leave for Panama tomorrow, trailing our creative director Toby Smith.

Here is the winning entry we received from Tyler, documenting his green market trips to make a potato surprise:

April 28th, 2013 12.30pm

It’s finally springtime in New York City – a time for rebirth, expansion, and warmth, and today I will celebrate by exploring the Sunday Greenmarkets in Manhattan. My objective or, call it a “mission” is to find local, fresh, and delicious vegetables for a Potato Surprise. “Potato Surprise?’ you ask. Well, it is rather simple: the only rules for a Potato Surprise are to (1) get potatoes, and (2) complement those potatoes with other veggies. It’s a delicious and versatile dish that can be made with almost any combination of vegetables, usually carrots, onions, garlic, a leafy green vegetable, and a squashy-type vegetable. It can be vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, or carnivorous.

The markets I’ll be visiting today are the Tompkins Square Market, Stuyvesant Town Market, and 79th Street Market. I’ll be making the trip by bicycle, and hopefully make it to all the markets before they close. But it will be a hell of a trip – I’ll have to cross over the Williamsburg Bridge, wind through the Lower East Side, find my way to the Upper East Side through one of the most traffic-heavy areas of the City, and then back downtown and across the bridge again to get home. It is undeniably the best day of 2013 yet, so it’s time to get my backpack, fill my tires, and get into the new warmth!

April 28th, 2013 12.30pm

I’m sitting at Continuum Coffee, which is attached to Continuum Cycles in the East Village. My bike is in the shop getting a new tire and new tube for the rear wheel. While I was trying to decide which booth to check out at Tompkins Square Market, my tire spontaneously blew up. It sounded something like someone had thrown a firecracker near me. Everyone around me seemed to be confused to, and then a man with a blonde curly mullet and a thick New York accent stopped by me to say, “It’s the tire – I ain’t never seen a tire do that before. Ever.” Sure enough, it just exploded! But I wasn’t about to let that stop my Potato Surprise Adventure, especially after only the first stop on the list. So here I am, at the bar of Continuum Coffee sipping on some espresso as the solo barista navigates a crowd of iced coffee drinkers. Thus far I’ve been on my own today, too, but the feeling I get when I drink espresso is of expansion – I want to socialize, I feel part of this coffee-shop-patron tribe. I think back to what springtime means to me: rebirth, expansion, and warmth…

April 28th, 2013 7.37pm

So I’m back home now and I’ve got all the supplies I need. From the farmers at Rogowski Farms in the Tompkins Square Market, I found my potatoes, carrots, and onions. Big congratulations to them for providing this key ingredient in Potato Surprise! After the spontaneous tire eruption from earlier, I was up 6th Avenue, where I took a quick pit stop into Pippin Vintage Jewelry, where my girlfriend, Tatianni, works. She invented the Potato Surprise years ago in college, and so I had to pay homage with a quick kiss and a thank you, then I was up 6th again. I took a detour through Central Park, where so many people shared my same sentiment of celebrating the warmth. It was a lively scene with families, performers, horses and carts, sunbathers, bike-riders, bongos—you name it! I made it to the 79th Street Market, where the kind people Knoll Krest Farm gave me some Free-Running, Vegetarian-Fed, Hormone and Antibiotic-Free eggs. At the same market, I got some kale, broccoli, garlic, and scallions from Gajeski Farms.           

I had everything I needed, but I still wanted to get to the last Greenmarket on the list – Stuyvesant Town. It was 4:30. They closed at 5:00. I took off in a hurry, through Columbus Circle, down through Times Square, over to Lexington Ave, zig-zagged down 5th Ave and over to 2nd Ave, but didn’t make it in time for the market. No big deal though, I had never been to Stuyvesant Town before, and decided to take a walk around. It is this village within the city separated from everything around it by the large apartment buildings that surround a central community park area and fountain. It really feels like its own town – with its own shopping area, café, deli, grocery, and security services. So I hung out there for a little while and then made my way across the Williamsburg Bridge again to get back home.

Time to get cooking!

April 28th 2013, 9.45pm

Potato Surprise recipe

1 bunch carrots

1 bunch kale, with loosies

1 large zucchini

1 lb broccoli

2 large onions

3 lbs potatoes

5 eggs

2 cloves garlic

1 bunch scallions

enough olive oil

2 quarts vegetable oil


black pepper*


ground red pepper*

*seasoned to taste

Here is my rudimentary way of describing the process of cooking the Surprise:

1)   chop the carrots, zucchini, broccoli, onions, and potatoes to a size that all five can fit on a spoon at one time, set aside.

2)   Pull apart kale into small pieces, start heating vegetable oil in a pan deep enough to fit all of the chopped potatoes inside.

3)   Dice the scallions and garlic, set aside.

4)   When vegetable oil is hot enough to deep-fry a potato (check by chucking in a tester), dump all the potatoes inside.

5)   Start pan-frying the vegetables in a olive-oiled pan.

6)   When potatoes are golden browned and crispy, toss them over paper towels and get as much of the vegetable oil off of them as possible.

7)   Add eggs to vegetables and mix around so the eggs get cooked over all the veggies. Add garlic and scallions.

8)   Mix in the potatoes. Then salt, pepper, cumin, red pepper to taste.

 The finished product is a hodgepodge of vegetables that makes for a healthy, hot, delicious meal that can feed a few people, especially if you add in sides of garlic bread and rice.

 What a day! I met some great people, saw countless things along the way that I have never encountered before, got a new tire and tube, enjoyed the sun, rode my bike fast, slow, quiet, and loud, and made it back home to enjoy one of my favorite meals provided exclusively by local farmers. Thanks to everyone involved! Happy Spring to All! 

Toby's Estate featured at Indaba

If you're all the way over on the West Coast, you can now enjoy Toby's Estate at INDABA in the West Central Neighborhood of Spokane, WA. 

INDABA is featuring our Colombian La Piramide single origin espresso on bar, and you can also take home a bag of freshly roasted Worka Yirgacheffe from Ethopia.

In 2007, founder Bobby Enslow traveled to South Africa and worked in an HIV/AIDS Hospice facility.  This had a huge impact on Bobby, and the experiences led to dreams for his coffee shop.

INDABA is a Zulu word that refers to a gathering of leaders to discuss important matters. This word is at the heart of this coffee shop's mission: to unite different people groups (i.e. tribes) across West Central, Spokane, and the World ... one cup at a time. 

INDABA takes a special approach to serving coffee, and uses the brew method they feel best represents the coffee's flavors.  Techniques include AeroPress, Beehouse, Chemex, French Press, Clever, and V60.

Drop in for some coffee magic at 1425 W Broadway Avenue in Spokane, Washington.

The Virmax 2013 Cupping Extravaganza in Hacienda El Roble, Colombia

After an eventful plane ride from north Bogota to Bucaramanga that had people praying in their seats, we were excited to touch down and make our way to Hacienda El Roble by car.

Virmax had invited us to attend their 2013 Cupping Extravaganza, along with a select group of coffee peers from all across the globe. The setting you see is an immaculate 300-acre coffee plantation with one of Colombia’s only coffee variety gardens. The aim of the event is to learn about and better and understand coffees, and the table presented a veritable smorgasbord of more than 42 different Arabica varieties. 

This was a fantastic experience, as it’s so rare to cup so many different coffees all in one setting. Over the course of the day we cupped four tables, including highlights from Geisha, SL 28’s, SL 34, Bourbon and Caturra.

What were really remarkable were two varieties that Hacienda El Roble mistakenly classified and lost the identities for, which they now call HR61, and HR62. Unanimously all the judges scored these two coffees the highest, even out performing the famed Geisha variety. Until Hacienda El Roble does genetic testing we will have to settle with the coded names and fantastic flavor. 

One thing that did become clear as the day went on is why, for the most part, we only get to cup a small selection of coffees in America. Out of all the coffees only a small handful would make it through into Specialty coffee, meaning to me at least, that the market has driven taste, filtering out less desirable coffees. This is a great thing for the Specialty coffee industry.

Congratulations to Giancarlo, Alejandro and their team for putting this event on for the third year in a row. It was a fantastic opportunity, and one that we will remember for a very long time.

Deaton Pigot

The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens in the winter

Are you feeling cooped up with the winter weather? The very talented Kate Blumm from Little Zelda also moonlights at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and is encouraging people to visit the garden in the winter. Pictured is one of the garden's greenhouses, The Aquatic House, boasting a huge selection of showy orchids.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is open Tuesday through Friday from 8am to 4.30pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4.30pm.  Weekday admission is free through the end of March.

After your visit to the gardens, take a ten minute stroll to Little Zelda and pick up a cup of freshly roasted Toby's Estate goodness.

Samambaia: our green bean buyer Deaton Pigot travels to origin

Meaning: Fern

Town: Santo Antonio

Region: South Minas

Country: Brazil

Producer’s Name: Henrique Dias Cambraia

Total hectares: 530

Coffee Producing Hectares: 370

Annual Production: 14,000 bags (each 132lbs)

Varieties:  Yellow Bourbon, Mundo Novo, Yellow Catucai, Catuai – Red and Yellow, Topazio

At the end of 2012 I was given the opportunity to travel to Brazil as a juror for the Cup of Excellence.  I love being able to cup at these events, as it is the greatest chance of tasting the best of what a coffee-producing nation has to offer.

The 2012 Cup of Excellence turned out to be quite an event.

As I was preparing to leave Brooklyn for Brazil, Tropical Sandy was bearing down on New York and I decided to find an earlier flight to beat the storm. Luckily I managed to get the last seat on a flight that left just three hours later, which was a blessing, as the airports were closed shortly afterwards.

After landing safely in Brazil and visiting a few farms with the Toby’s Estate Australia Coffee Roaster Darien Howard, we drove towards Samambia - a farm I have been interested in seeing for some time.  Samambia is a forth generation farm that has been run by Henrique Dias Cambraia since 1993, when Henrique inherited the farm from his father.

The homestead on the farm deserves its own mention, as it is a stunning house that has been meticulously maintained and renovated since it was originally built in 1890. The house is two stories with two basements, which were used for house staff quarters. The ground floor of the house was open and kept dry so the family could store food for themselves and their livestock, and they family lived upstairs..

Over the years, the Cambria family made changes and additions, including surrounding the ground floor with a wall to convert it into a beautiful living space with a dining room, kitchen, grand entrance and lounge room. The basement has been converted into Henrique’s office/den, where we spent late hours with wine and cigars talking all things coffee.

The upstairs part of the homestead now houses 8 bedrooms for Henrique’s family and guests. Darien and I we were made to feel right at home with Henrique’s visiting family and friends, who were there to enjoy the long weekend. We ate like kings, eating more then our fair share of Portuguese BBQ and drinking Cachaca.

We spent our days with Henrique canvassing the 530 hectares of land that produces coffee. One thing evident about Brazil is that it does big, bigger then no other. From the roads and the road trains to the sheer size of its agribusiness, Brazil is just big. Compared to the walking friendly farms I have visited in Central America, it was something to be driven all over the plantation.

Regardless of size, the farm is still picturesque, with rolling hills and coffee trees perfectly lined up row after row in traditional Brazilian agriculture style. The farm has a huge drying patio backed up with several mechanical dryers for the busier months of harvest.

Samambaia produces a lot of Natural processed coffees, with almost 70% of total production being completed this way. The remaining 30% of coffees produced are pulped Naturals, which is what I decided to purchase this season.

The Samambaia processing warehouses feature huge silos, which separate lots and allow those lots to rest before bagging them. Henrique runs a tight ship with a meticulous auditing process, meaning clear traceability for buyers and consumers.

Samambaia is part of a coffee collective known as the Santo Antonio Estate Coffees, which Henrique is a board member of, and the farm is also part of Atlas coffee. Santo Antonio Estate Coffees are made up of medium to large-scale farms that surround the town of Santo Antonio. The group employs a full time cupper/ quality control manager and has a state of the art cupping lab. The group also owns its own warehouse and dry mill, which goes a long way to ensuring quality and traceability.

Going green: reducing our carbon footprint

We at Toby's Estate believe we have a social, ethical and environmental responsibility to our environment and everyone we do business with.  Check out our environmental efforts here.

The engineers from Probat have spent the past week in our Brooklyn roastery making changes to our after burner, in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint.  An after burner is required by the State of NY to reduce the fine filaments and smoky odors a coffee roaster produces before they escape into the local environment.  After burners generate an incredible amount of heat to quite literally burn off the smoke at 1250+ degrees F. It takes 1.2 million BTU's (British Thermal Units) to power such a large piece of equipment, and as you can imagine that is a lot of gas and a lot of carbon. 

In an effort to reduce the carbon foot print of Toby's Estate, we worked with Probat to design an Automated after burner system for the Probat we use in our Brooklyn roastery. Coffee starts to produce small amounts of smoke as low as 350 degrees F and not beforehand, so to have the afterburner running at 1250F the whole day is not necessary. Probat has designed the after burner to recognize the exact temperature of the coffee bean and trigger the afterburner when it reaches 350F. Probat has also designed the program to have a slight delay in activating the after burner.  This means when the roaster is empty and we are heating the roaster to the ideal starting temperature, the after burner won't automatically start.

We will be keeping a close eye on the new systems to monitor savings in gas and carbon emissions, and predict it will reduce these outputs by 30%. 

This is just one of the small steps we take to make a big difference. 

Rulindo - Rwanda

Region: Northern Province, Rulindo District

Farm: Rulindo Washing Station

Varietal: Bourbon

Processing: Washed, dried on raised beds

Elevation: 1800 – 2100 meters

In the 2011 Rwanda Cup of Excellence, two of the winning lots that scored over 85 points coming in 8th and 30th place were from SACOF Rulindo, and farmed by Beatrice Ndacyayisenga. SACOF is a Rwandan company that invests in coffee production and exporting, and is run in conjunction with the Cooperative pour la Promotion des Activities Café (COOPAC). 

Established in 2002, COOPAC now has over 2,200 members from six coffee associations. The cooperative was founded to take advantage of the excellent potential of the natural resources in the Lake Kivu region, and produce coffee ready for the specialty market. Now considered some of the finest quality coffee Rwanda has to offer, COOPAC coffee placed first for all of Africa in the East African Fine Coffee Association regional quality competition. COOPAC is also dedicated to transforming the lives of its association members, helping improve cultivation practices, construct schools and health care clinics, provide vital infrastructure, all while placing a large focus on empowering women. COOPAC is also working to provide a cow to every family in its association, to provide both nutrition and a sustainable source of fertilizer.

Time Out New York 2013 Food & Drink Awards (Reader's Choice)

The Time Out New York 2013 Food & Drink Awards (Reader's Choice) voting is now open.  Check out the contenders here.

Congratulations to our partner Ovenly for their nomination in the best new bakery category.  We proudly serve Ovenly pastries and baked goods in our Brooklyn cafe.

And our partner Dear Bushwick has also been nominated, in the best new neighborhood joint category.  You can now enjoy Toby's Estate freshly roasted coffee in Bushwick.

Toby's Estate visits Brazil for the Cup of Excellence

Cupping at the Cup of Excellence

Our head roaster and green bean buyer Deaton Pigot just got back from a trip to Brazil.  Here is his journal entry for his time away:

I have not been to Brazil before, so it has been really nice to finally connect the dots and see what they are up to down here.  Carmo De Minus is my favorite location so far, it feels like Central America with nice small farms nestled in mountainous ranges, and is really pretty.

The Monte Alegre farm was massive. It produces as much coffee as all of Bolivia and is 2374 hectares in total.  The homestead was amazing, built in 1778 which makes it ten years older than Australia.  It was like a museum on the inside and the lady of the house Corina was very graceful in showing us around her 15 bedroom house, feeding us and entertaining us as well. 

Samambaia was a massive farm as well but very different to Monte Alegre. The owner Henrique's homestead had 8 bedrooms and was built in the same dark manner as Monte Alegre in 1890.  Both houses were built up high and would use the floor level under the house as dry goods storage, with food for themselves and live stock.  Both the homesteads converted the lower level into a downstairs living room for their families.  Henrique is a relatively young guy that inherited the 530 hectare farm 19 years ago when his father passed away.

As well as visiting local farms, the other reason for me visiting Brazil was for the Cup of Excellence. The Cup of Excellence is the most esteemed award given out for top coffees. These awards come from a strict competition that selects the very best coffee produced in that country for that particular year. These winning coffees are chosen by a select group of national and international cuppers and are cupped at least five different times during the competition process. Only coffees that continuously score high enough are allowed to move forward in the competition. The final winners are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence® and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction."

Although I was excited to get to Brazil I was not entirely sure what the quality of the coffees would be like. I understand Brazil's coffees to be fantastic as a good approachable coffee that the consumer can easily relate to and I had the preconceived idea that there might not be much else.  A little silly considering the size of Brazil.

I am excited to report that I could not be any more wrong. The coffees that made it through to the finals which we got to cup were absolutely remarkable. A lot of flavors that I just would not expect to come out of Brazil, fruit forward, high in acidity superbly sweet, sweet cups. Not the expected nutty, chocolate coffees that I have come to understand from the country. 

I enjoy attending the Cup of Excellence as it is a fantastic opportunity to taste the best coffees that any particular origin has produced. T he program has really helped the specialty coffee industry come of age and helped us realize just how important it is to have traceability and connect with the producers. If you have an interest in the Cup of Excellence then you can follow the live Action January 10.

"The Cup of Excellence is the most esteemed award given out for top coffees. These awards come from a strict competition that selects the very best coffee produced in that country for that particular year. These winning coffees are chosen by a select group of national and international cuppers and are cupped at least five different times during the competition process. Only coffees that continuously score high enough are allowed to move forward in the competition. The final winners are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence® and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction."

Guest appearance at the New Amsterdam Market

We are packing up our beans and catching the East River Ferry over to downtown Manhattan.

Next Sunday, December 16, we are going to be making a special appearance at the New Amsterdam Market between 11:00AM to 4:00PM. 

Pop over for warming espresso and hot chocolate, and take some freshly roasted coffee beans home with you.

The markets are at South Street between Beekman Street & Peck Slip, in Manhattan.

Toby's Estate takes Manhattan at the Union Square holiday markets

Manhattan will get a chance to experience a cup of artisan Brooklyn without catching the L train across the river, as we prepare to set up camp at the Union Square holiday markets on Friday 16 November.  This will be our first Manhattan pop up store.

“Brooklyn and its artisan products have been receiving an increasing amount of acclaim from international food critics, and we are excited to broaden that experience to Manhattan,” says our founder Toby Smith.

At the Union Square Holiday Market, we will serve a range of espresso and filter coffees, using distinctive high altitude Arabica coffees from around the globe. Our coffee menu will feature an array of single origins including coffees from Colombia, Kenya, Guatemala, and Brazil.

We will also serve a range of bakery items from artisan Brooklyn bakers alongside bags of freshly roasted coffee beans and coffee brewing equipment to gift or use at home.

Our pop up will be located at Booth C26, above Union Square 14th St subway station.  Hours of operation are as follows: Monday – Friday, 11AM – 8PM, Saturday, 10AM – 8PM, and Sunday, 11AM – 7PM.  Friday 16 November – Monday 24 December. For more information, visit or phone: (347) 457 6160   

Honduras: Our head roaster Deaton Pigot travels to origin

Marysabel Caballero

I have always been excited about getting back to Honduras, especially the city of Marcala as it seems so far removed from the turmoil of other Honduran major cities. Marcala is a sleepy town with dirt roads, horse pulled carriages and friendly locals.

The last time I visited Marcala was in 2010. It is amazing how quickly time flies in the US, as we become so absorbed in our day-to-day lives. This is not so for the town of Marcala, which is like a town is frozen in time. People mill about in town markets, and hang out on the sidewalk talking and people watching. Life seems like it’s on its own time line there.

Something that always strikes me when I go to origin is that farmers’ time lines are so different from ours. As Baristas, experimenting with brewing parameters takes mere minutes to make adjustments and taste results. As roasters, tweaking a roast and blend takes days or weeks to taste the results. As coffee farmers if they want to do varietal experiments it takes years to taste the results. People must have a lot of patience plus ample time on their side.

As I flew on the plane to Honduras, I wondered what the last two years were like for the Caballero family. I wondered if they experience time like I do, like life had raced by in the blink of an eye like it had for me.

Meeting Marysabel and Moises Herrera at the airport I immediately felt calm, as they stood at the gates waving in big gestures and welcoming me like I was family. These warm embraces made me remember what it is like not to hold my breath, and it felt great to be back in Honduras.

Marcala is a 3 hour drive south of San Pedro Sula. The roads have definitely improved in the last two years which was great to see. Mogola is part of Marcala and is the most recent coffee denomination addition for Honduras.

The Caballero family has lived in Honduras for more then a century, when Marysabel’s great, great Grandfather Fabio Caballero moved to the new lands from El Salvador in Germany, where he set himself up by trading cattle. Fabio was a respected man in the community and owned two small stores which he took care of whilst he was home from his travels.

Fabio Caballero’s connection to coffee started with his wife Sandra Isabel Garcia, who was the third generation of a coffee family. Sandra Isabel’s grandfather Felipe García began planting coffee in Marcala in 1907 and transported the processed beans by by mule in sacks made of leather, to a port in El Salvador for export to Germany. Felipe García traded his coffee for things like cloth, tools, and fertilizers which he then sold in a small store in Marcala. Over time, Sandra Isabel Garcia’s father Don Arsaces García began increasing the area of family land dedicated to coffee production.

Sandra Isabel married Fabio Antonio Caballero Martínez in 1970. Fabio Caballero was born in the north coast of Honduras, but had mostly lived in Tegucigalpa to study. After graduating school, Fabio Caballero took a job as a bank manager in Honduras, which led to him moving to Marcala in 1969. After seven years of working at the bank, Fabio Caballero moved on to work full time at the farms he had slowly been acquiring since 1970. Now owning farms in the Mogola area, he bought in other areas like San Francisco, near Marcala Town (Las Colinas), in the Pedernal area, and near San Jose Town (La Atiliois). In 2000 the family (Caballero-Garcia and Herrera-Caballero) bought a wet mill, Beneficio Xinacla, where they continued working the family’s coffees.

On the way to Marcala we decided at the last minute to take a quick detour to Benificio, Xinacla. Moises is in charge of the station and he asked his crew to hold off on processing a small lot of coffee so I could see the process. The drive was on a beaten old dirt road and the 4x4 kept climbing in altitude until it reached a base height of around 1550 meters.

We arrived as night fell over the land, and the Benificio was stunning, surrounded by forests and mountain ranges creating its own oasis in thick lush bush land. As soon as we got out of the car the Moises crew started all of the equipment. There were cherries in a tiled dry tank with some piping hanging above. Out came recycled water captured from a few of the previous cycles. The murky water acted like a conveyer belt delivering the cherry to the de-pulper, and they used a Penagos which is also light on its water usage. We left the de-pulped coffee in dry fermentation tanks for the night and made our way back to Marcala. 

I rested up for the night, waking up at the crack of dawn, to have my favorite breakfast típico of eggs, rice and beans and plantains. So simple. I got picked up by Moises and headed to the Benificio Xinacla to watch the micro lot that we de-pulped the night prior get washed and spread out on the drying patios.

The washing process is somewhat mesmerizing to watch, a gang of workers armed with long wooden paddles work in rhythm simultaneously to push the de-pulped coffee down canals. The water they use for washing both looks and smells amazing, as it is fresh mountain water free of any chemicals or processes that we are used to in New York.

It is amazing just how quickly the beans are clean as they move along and likewise how quickly the water becomes dirty. Soon enough the beans are ferried down a pipe and onto a drying patio. A man with a wheelbarrow that looks as old as time was used to distribute the beans onto the cement. The cement had a door which slightly opened from the bottom, so the beans cascaded out like a water fall and men with racks spread the beans thin to dry evenly.

Once the coffees are dried they are bagged up and given a lot number for the day. The lot sizes can vary from day to day depending on the time of year and which farm they are harvesting. The stock control that Moises has running is really impressive for when he’s full swing he has to process a lot of coffees.

This year is the first year I have visited the Caballeros with the purpose of actually buying coffee, so we planned on visiting some of their other farms, staying another night and eating the local cuisine. We went back to San Pedro Sula, to Bon Café to cup their coffees. This turned out to be a really special moment.

We had two large tables of coffee to get through and of course it came as no surprise to me that at all the Caballeros coffee shined. It is a great moment to be in the room together with Moises and Marysabel cupping and tasting their year’s hard work. It’s hard not to get swept up into the excitement of the room. I could not wait to bring the samples back home with me to test in our own lab at Toby’s.

So that was then and this is now and it is with great excitement that I introduce my first Direct Trade coffees for the year.

Milk without the moo

We are all for collaborations, and are excited to have worked with People's Pops and Van Leeuwen.

Our newest collaboration is with local brand OMilk, who make nut milks in Brooklyn. Greg and Julie Van Ullen have created a coffee almond milk made with our very own cold brew coffee. 

Tasting Table says: "The bitterness of the java cuts the sweetness of the almond, and with the milk's gentle creaminess, we are craving one more sip. Currently available by home delivery, it will be released tomorrow at Whole Foods Tribeca."

Notes on Costa Rica from our head roaster, Deaton Pigot

La Planada - Costa Rica 

In 2008 Costa Rica had three celebrations - 200 years of coffee production, 75 years of the Coffee Institute (ICAFE) and 20 years of a government decree that banned the production of Robusta coffee and led to Costa Rica becoming a 100% Arabica coffee region.  I have wanted to visit Costa Rica for many years and last year I had the chance to attend the Costa Rican Cup of Excellence.  A special part of the event is being shown around the country sight seeing the best coffee farms, and last year was no different - we met 12 different producers, heard their stories and walked their lands.

I met the esteemed Francisco Mena from Exclusive Coffees in San Jose. This was a fantastic chance to hear about the Costa Rican coffee industry, which Francesca says has gone through a Micro Mill revolution. Fueled by historically low coffee prices 10 years ago, enterprising farmers decided they wanted more control over their coffee and began commanding a higher price for their efforts. The farmers then built their own milling stations so they could start selling their beans directly. This new initiative has started to take hold and in only 10 years there are now around 150 micro mills processing and highlighting the perfect beans. Costa Rica now has one of the more developed infrastructures of all the coffee regions.

It is with excitement that we introduce to you Finca La Planada, a quaint farm situated in the West Valley in Lourdes De Naranjo. The farm is owned by Manuel Antonia Barrantes and the coffee variety is Villa Sarchi, an Arabica cultivar that is a natural dwarf mutation of Bourbon, and very similar to Caturra and Pacas.

The story of Victor Calderon, as told by Toby's Estate Australia general manager Andrew Low

Meet Victor Calderon.  This picture was taken when were at 1,800 metres above sea level overlooking the El Tambor Estate, an Estate that was awarded Lot #5 in this year’s Guatemalan Cup of Excellence, the lot purchased by Toby’s Estate. But this is not where the story began ...

Victor grew up on a second generation coffee farm in the south of Guatemala. The farm, at relatively low altitude grows medium grade Arabicas and sells to the base export market. In 1987, his grandmother took him aside and asked if he would run it for the family. At the time coffee prices were strong and the farm supported 80 families who had worked there for 30 years of more.  The choice was a difficult one as any young adventurous boy wants to travel and see the world, but already Victor felt an unavoidable sense of responsibility rise up inside him, knowing that if he didn’t take on the farm, it would be struggling in five years with no successor.

Today Paul and I were picked up in what looked like a standard 1990’s Range Rover, but we quickly discovered that it was armor plated with bullet proof glass. Sheepishly we asked, “is this trip going to be safe?” to which Victor gave a polite smile and quoted the three penguins from kids' movie Madagascar “just smile at the men with guns and wave”.  While we were never in harm’s way, it has not always been like this in Guatemala. Victor began to tell us that in the mid 1990’s when the guerrilla movement was very strong, long before the guerrillas and the government reconciled, corruption and violence was rife. On many occasions, Victor was shot at going to his own farm, harassed for protection money and robbed of stock and cash. It got so bad at one point, he had to stop visiting the farm altogether and run it through remote management with some of the tribal locals. Thankfully political stability has come a long way.

As a cultural insight into Guatemala, social security and health care are non-existent. Employees generally live on the farms and work for a base wage. If they are well looked after, the owner will allocate them small plots of land to grow their own crops to supplement their income. As a businessman, Victor passionately believes in investing in his farmers, paying them over and above and treating them like family. And for many years this model was going very well until the year 2000. It was at this time, the USA invested millions in setting up the Vietnam coffee industry, to protect the cost of the cup in the United States.  Combined with some strong lobbying by Nestle, the impact was devastating. The coffee price dropped from $3 pound to $2 overnight. Volume started moving offshore and the cash began drying up. It was at this point that Victor shared, quite emotionally the heart ache that followed as he had to let 50 of the 80 families go one by one.

In Guatemalan employment law, on leaving a business each employee is entitled to be paid by the owner 3 months' wages for every year worked. For those who had been there 30 years this equates to a payout of 7.5 years’ salary. Clearly Victor’s family did not have the cash so he had to structure the terminations one family per month for nearly 3 years. To find the money he had to sell tractors, coffee plants and property to honor his obligations. Many local traders simply closed the door on their operation and the employees were out on the street, but not Victor.

 This became a turning point in Victor's career. Victor vowed to never again go through the heart ache of having to end the livelihood of his treasured and much loved farmers. At that time he made two key decisions, and on reflection, it was these two decisions that will not only guarantee the livelihood of his family for generations but also those who work under his employ.

Victor's first decision was to diversify. It is a common sight in Guatemala that when the coffee price goes up, everyone rips out their crops and plants coffee and when the coffee price goes down they rip out the coffee and grow corn. Victor no longer wanted to expose 100% of his operations to this cycle so he began to plant both rubber trees and macadamia nuts. His rubber is sold to China for use in a range of Ansell products such as gloves, tyres and condoms. In the last 10 years Victor has successfully managed to build the business up so that they back to employing 50 families who work under the banner of certainty in their unemployment.

The second crucial decision was to buy EL Tambor Estate in the northern highlands. Victor’s rationale is that Vietnam and in the future China will always undercut the commodity end of the low grade Arabica and Robusta markets, making his business fluctuate from periods of profit to loss, a trend that he believes will only worsen for Guatemala over the next 10 years. However, high grade, high altitude Arabica varietals will always be protected by the ever growing demand for specialty coffee.  It was with this in mind that in 2002, he approached a woman to buy out her farm that wasn’t doing very well. To seal the deal, Victor had to sell his house, his car and even his watch, leaving him with nothing but the uphill battle of 2 years before the first planted crop would yield returns.

But here is where the story turns from sorrow to joy, where your heart warms at one man’s unending generosity, vision for uncompromised quality, an ownership of community prosperity and environmental sustainability, all underpinning a now successful and viable business.

 The El Tambor Estate now employs 8eightfamilies, all of whom have at least 8-12 members spanning across 2 generations. They live on the farm in basic houses where every year, Victor builds one new house and gives it to the next family in line. On top of this he buys every household a dog, to protect the house from thieves, a horse for transport, chicken for eggs and fills a manmade pond with fresh fish to support a nutritionally balanced diet.

As for pay and conditions, not only does Victor pay $10 per day ($2 above the average), the employees only work for him from 9am – 2pm as in the afternoon, they work on their own plots of land, land that Victor has transferred ownership to them to in an attempt to supplement their income with corn and a local crop called whiskel. To top it off, at least once a year Victor gives away an old TV, fridge or car to one of the farmers for them to build up their assets. Today he brought up a new wash basin and faucet for a family to have water inside.

From a sustainability platform, Victor's process is second to none with an adage of “nature as it was intended” and “nothing goes to waste”. The farm instantly presents as an integration of local native trees and wildlife. Victor takes us through his process, proudly stating that he uses no chemicals but rather relies on nitrous rich trees and ground cover to assist the coffee plants and supplements their nutritional needs with horse manure. We even saw wild chickens running around and Victor explained that there are up to 100 of the farmer’s chickens on site that he lets roam free and feed of the ground in return acting as natural soil agitators. With pride, we are asked to stop speaking and Victor points out how abundant the bird life is. It is his belief that nature in balance will yield the highest grade crops and he specifically plants trees that the birds can feed on in winter so they stay on the farm and play a vital role (along with locally kept bees) of pollination. At one point we comment on the number of butterflies to which Victor informs us that a butterfly can only survive if the water PH in neutral, demonstrating the purity of his farm and the absence of herbicides and weed killers.

Well amazingly, we have made it this far in the account without mentioning the coffee. I am definitely saving the best till last. But firstly, El Tambor Estate, where did the name come from? Tambor means drum and the farms name came from a cave that is in the middle of the farm that when water floods through in the rainy season, it makes a drumming sound.

What continued to dawn on us is that Victor, a man who has a vision for the future and a strategy for success, never follows the norm. He actively rejects what the rest of the industry is doing. With amazing similarity to the approach Toby has taken to the Australian coffee industry, I am convinced it is Victor’s passion for never compromising quality in search of higher yield and always willing to try something new that will guarantee he will succeed as one of the country’s most successful producers.

To give a real life example, the Guatemalan Coffee Association, supported by the government, own a lot of land and gives genetically bred seeds to the farmers to guarantee that even under neglect, they will promise a high yield of cherries. The incentive for this is that not only does the farmer generate an income but the association is paid a royalty for every bag sold, a simple volume game. The cost of this model is quality as the new breed while hardy is not true to its origin and it is for this reason that Victor refuses to use seed from the association, preferring to bring it in from other countries or breeding higher grade specimens in large nurseries on his own farm. The samples we have been given are El Tambor Arabicas from the Pacamara, Pache and Bourbon varietals all grown in the same locations (a rare opportunity to assess and try an array of varietals under the same growing conditions).

And is he successful. Victor was awarded lot #5 in the Guatemalan Cup of Excellence, am amazing cup that I hope each of you have now had the opportunity to try. 

On a personal level, the joy for me today was firstly seeing the actual trees that our cup of excellence lot came from, secondly to be given the opportunity to learn from a man so knowledgeable and clear on his vision for specialty coffee and third, to have played a role in supporting a business so passionate about sustaining their community, environment and business.

While my brief summary will have lost some of the emotion of our day, I truly hope that you can read this and connect with the story. I leave this farm with an overflowing pride for the organisation that I am blessed to be a part of, led by a man who doesn’t uphold direct farm relationships because it is ticking a box or will sell more coffee but because, like Victor, Toby believes in the bigger picture, what’s right,  not necessarily what’s best. May we never lose sight of these values.

Spotlight on Leyla

Leyla is 45 seat canteen nestled into the heart of the West Village, offering Toby's Estate coffee alongside new American cuisine from chefs Jared Braithwaite and Monique Fiso (both Public alumni).  

Owner Leyla Maroufi channeled the rustic charm of the neighborhood, using a lot of reclaimed and reused timber to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

The menu includes an amazing selection of seasonal vegetables and meats, including dollar oysters and all you can eat mussels Sunday to Wednesday. Check out current offerings here

Welcome to the Toby's Estate family, Leyla.

Summer menu

With the warmer weather in Brooklyn at the moment, we love eating light and fresh lunches with our cold brew iced coffee.

Our new summer salad has Middle Eastern spiced chickpeas, a chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes, and Greek yoghurt for $8.50.

We also offer an equallty healthy quinoa salad with summer vegetables, crumbled goat feta, cilantro and a cumin lime dressing for $9.

The New York Coffee Guide 2012

The New York Coffee guide details the 100 best coffee shops in New York.  The guide was compiled to help true coffee lovers on their search for the best coffee through the five boroughs.

We are proud to join La Colombe, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Stumptown as the highest rated coffee stores in New York.  All four coffee stores received 4.75 out of 5.  Congratulations.

You can purchase a copy of the guide for $14.95 here and in our Williamsburg cafe.

Food menu 8 June 2012

Our newest addition to the menu: grilled pork sausage sandwich


Almond Butter and Raw Honey on Whole Grain – 5.5

Vegemite and Butter on Whole Grain– 4

Avocado, Tahini-Lemon Sauce, and Black Sesame Seeds on Whole Grain – 6

Red Bliss Potato and Green Chili Hash with Baked Egg on Sourdough Toast – 8

Salvatore Ricotta, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Herb-Walnut Pesto on Sourdough Toast – 9


Pistachio & Apricot Granola, Yogurt, Honey, Berries, Banana – 4


Scrambled Egg, Shelburne Cheddar, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Espresso-Lacquered Bacon on a roll – 7.5

Grilled Smoked Ham and Gruyere Cheese on Sourdough Bread, Cornichons and Honey Mustard – 8.5

Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich with Red Chili Mayo, Avocado, Arugula, Pickled Red Onions – 9

Grilled Pork Sausage, Apple/Fennel Slaw, Home-made Aioli on a French Baguette – 10


Arugula, Pecorino, Chicken, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Balsamic Dressing – 8.5

Cafe feature: Little Zelda

Who are you?

Husband and wife team Michael de Zayas and Kate Blumm. 

Where do you live?

We live in Crown Heights, on the third floor of a brownstone, a block and a half from Little Zelda. It's one minute and forty-two seconds from our doorstep to the cafe.

How did you choose your location for Little Zelda

We had always imagined a vest-pocket sized place, and this was the first space we saw in the days after we moved into our apartment. We then looked at a dozen other spaces in Prospect and Crown Heights, but nothing ever matched the greatness of this one-- right on marvelous Franklin Avenue, in the heart of it all, amid so many other small businesses and all the super energy that brings.

Tell us about the name of your cafe.

Our daughter Zelda is now 9 months old, and the space itself is very little-- 250 sq ft. We agonized about the name for months, and were pretty sure it would invoke family somehow, since we're a close clan. We thought we had nailed it several times only to think about it for a day and realize whatever we had come up with was completely wrong for one reason or another. And literally two days before we opened, Michael woke up and said: how about Little Zelda? And it was done! One day we'll maybe share some of the names that didn't make the cut ... if we're brave enough.

Is this your first cafe?

Yes! We've never done anything in food or beverage before. Except, of course, eat and drink. A lot. All the time.

What else do you sell besides coffee?

Almond croissants, cheddar chive biscuits, double chocolate biscotti, salted caramels, burnt sugar espresso shortbread. . .i.e. things that taste good with coffee. We spent months scouring the bakeries of Brooklyn, and eventually decided on the very best things-- Toby's coffee, and a selection of baked delights, breads, and sweets. Instead of the somewhat predictable bagel, we make toast using fresh bread delivered each day-- with butter, smoked salt grapefruit marmalade, triple berry jam, speculoos spread, olive oil and salt ...working behind the counter (and being a customer, we think) is an exercise in self-restraint!

How did you hear about Toby's Estate/decide to use Toby's Estate?

We had spoken to several roasters on a short list we developed through word of mouth, research, and-- of course-- years of drinking coffee. We had almost settled on one company until Kate decided to do one more search to make sure we weren't missing anyone we should talk to; Toby's has just opened a few days earlier and we called the following morning. We chose Toby's in large part because the vibe felt right; they were new, we were new, and we could go on this wild rumpus together.

What was Little Zelda (the space) before it became your cafe?

It was a cell phone store called Off the Hook Communications, but that went out of business a long time ago, and it had been abandoned for a while. One customer claims it was a hair salon 20 or 25 years ago. 

Do you have any hobbies in what little spare time you have now?

Michael runs a non-profit cleaning service for new parents that serves 60 families, and I work full time as communications manager at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Michael is also travel writer and leads tours of Cuba; I am the producing director for 600 HIGHWAYMEN, a New York-based theater company. We're kind of busy.

What else might you like for our readers to know about you?

We imagined our cafe as an antidote to laptop culture-- we wanted our place to be a gathering point for neighborhood conversation, for book and newspaper reading, and an easy place to meet new people and for making friends. And as abstract as that might be on paper, it has all happened! Other facts of vague interest: Kate's wonderful kid brother Eli also works at the shop. Michael drinks coffee very light and very sweet (he is Cuban, after all). Kate has a robust vintage hat collection. Zelda has four teeth.

How did you meet?

Way back in the early '00s, we met on the dance floor of a party that Michael's brother was DJing, at the apartment of Kate's best friend. Kate was 19. A couple of years later we started dating, and 4 years later were married. 

Mother's Day gift idea

We love giving gifts that inspire and offer a new skill set. If you are stuck on what to get your mom this Mother's Day, pop into the store and check out our V60 Pour Over Kits.  For the rest of the week, receive a free brew school class when you purchase one of the kits so your mom is all set to start brewing great coffee at home.

Basic: White Ceramic Dripper · Range Server · Filters
Total Price: $54.00
Bundle Price: $48.95

Average: White Ceramic Dripper · Range Server · Filters · Buono Kettle
Total Price: $114.00
Bundle Price: $102.95

Rad: White Ceramic Dripper · Range Server · Filters · Buono Kettle · Page Evolution Scale · Mini Mill Slim Grinder
Total price: $182.00
Bundle Price: $163.95

* Receive a free cup of coffee and 50% off a bag of our coffee of the week when you purchase the Average or the Rad Kit.

bluebird Coffee Shop

We are thrilled to be working with one of our long time favorite East Village haunts, bluebird Coffee Shop.  Super star team Alex and Sabrina have created a homey and relaxed atmosphere, while serving up top notch coffee.

Our very own Woolloomooloo Blend will be featured on the bluebird bar this Sunday 6 May.  Pop along and grab a cup of Toby's goodness from 72 East 1st St (near First Avenue).

Toby's special coffee cupping class

We love it when Toby comes to town. Yesterday he led five lucky coffee lovers through our coffee cupping class.

Lauren Farmer captured this great shot of Toby after the class.  Lauren is a photographer based in New York, with unpacked bags in Sydney.  She enjoys urban portraiture, music photography, and coffee.

Find out more about our free public coffee cupping classes and how to sign up here.

Coffee Trails

Last night we were proud to launch Toby's new book Coffee Trails.  The book is a beautiful collection of stories and photographs from a world wide trek to find the best coffee beans.

Coffee Trails is available in our Williamsburg location and online 

We love every word of the book, especially the chapter on Ethiopia - the birth place of coffee and the subject of Coffee Trails' first chapter.

It was totally surreal and I felt like I was floating as we came closer and closer to the plant that would be dry processing this year's Yirgacheffe.  As the evening closed in, the clouds descended and within seconds the rain pelted down.  To escape it, we rushed into the nearest bus shelter only to find it was someone's living room.  It was an awkward moment as pairs of eyes stared at us unblinkingly and we tried to apologize for our unexpected visit.

Book launch party for Coffee Trails

Toby Smith, founder and director of Toby's Estate, has spent more than a decade in search of the world's best coffee and has decided to spill the beans on all his amazing travels that take you on the journey of the bean.

Join us in our Williamsburg location tonight to meet Toby and hear some of his stories. RSVP essential 


Our head roaster Deaton and operations director Adam just got back from Nicaragua, where they spent a week visiting coffee farms and finding our next batch of green beans to roast in Williamsburg.

We travel to origin six months of the year to meet growers and cooperatives. This way we know exactly where our beans come from, and can make sure the many hands that help are paid fairly and treated well.

Deaton and Adam visited a handful of developing farmers trialling and testing beans, and speaking with them about the best way to improve their production.

Keep an eye out for fresh new season Nicaraguan coffees on bar soon.

Coffee and Tea Festival

Angelina and Nathan pulling shots

Our baristas Angelina and Nathan manned the Fourth Machine at the Coffee and Tea Festival in New York over the weekend. 

Visitors enjoyed our Kenya Kaiguri, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and our special Bedford Espresso blend roasted by Deaton Pigot.

Free public cupping classes

Cupping room and espresso lab

After spending a yearlong working vacation on a coffee farm in Brazil, Toby Smith returned to Australia in 1998 and started roasting beans in his mother’s garage in the Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo.  Passionate about sharing his knowledge of coffee, Smith began hosting public coffee cuppings and training in his mother’s garden.  Toby’s Estate continues this tradition in its Australian locations and now also in Brooklyn.

Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn cups for green bean purchasing, quality control, and to educate its staff about the coffees served in house. Aiming to educate and inspire, Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn is now offering public coffee cupping classes in their custom designed cupping room and espresso lab – a glass walled space at the back of the 3000 square foot roastery and cafe.  The cuppings are open to coffee enthusiasts of all levels, from coffee nerds to people wanting to start learning about coffee. Toby’s head trainer or roaster will guide participants through the full sensory evaluation process, starting from the smelling of dry fragrances and wet aroma to the tasting of the coffee.

Starting 29 February 2012, free public cupping classes will run every Wednesday from 10am – 11.30am.  Class size is limited to five participants.  To register for a class, email or call 347 457 6160, as space is limited to five participants per class.

Thursday Night Throwdown

The crowd listening intently on how the baristas would bring the noise

Thursday Night Throwdown (TNT) NYC is a community run latte art competition, held on the third Thursday of every month at a different coffee location in New York.  We were excited to host the season finals last night, and see some of New York's most talented baristas shake their money makers. 

All proceeds were donated to Bikes to Rwanda and the judges announced Samuel Lewontin as the winner.  Congratulations Sam, the reigning latte art champion of the world. Or Williamsburg.