Irvington Is Having a Coffee Renaissance

With three new coffee shops cropping up the last couple years, this Rivertown’s coffee moment is welcome to stay for the long haul.

For a lot of us, coffee wakes us up as we order it through a drive-in, on a mobile app, or when we run into a gas station shop after filling up. It’s not necessarily a beverage for lingering. But there’s a movement in the Rivertown of Irvington, where three cafés are encouraging customers to slow down, engage with the owners and baristas, and open themselves up to the culture and experience of the coffee (and teas) being served.

Irvington’s Main Street measures a tidy half mile, and as you walk down that street and over by the water, you see that the town is making the most of the coffee boom spreading across Westchester. For a variety of reasons, passionate and knowledgeable café owners and baristas have decided to call Irvington their home.

LuDy Café

7 N Astor St, Irvington

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Tim Akapo, co-owner (with wife, Ashley) of Irvington’s newest café, got steeped in coffee culture while living in Melbourne, Australia. Born in Nigeria, Akapo lived in the United Kingdom and Australia before landing in New York in 2015. Making its debut in June, LuDy (named after the couple’s children, Lucas and Dylan) aims to bring that café culture to Irvington through the coffee and tea it serves by acting as a community hub and through those all-important ingredients of engagement and education. Have a seat on the bench by the window, or pull up a comfortable chair.

Akapo, who worked in the supply-chain and information-technology industries, says in Melbourne he developed a “passion for everything coffee.” He dove into the coffee world by visiting coffee plantations and learning all he could about the process from bean to cup. “I’ve always been a wine nerd and, when I turned my attention to coffee, I wanted to have the same amount of knowledge,” he says.

When Akapo moved to Westchester, he knew he would open a café “to build community.” The Ardsley resident chose Irvington because it has a mix of commuters and visitors, people who stroll through the town’s Matthiessen Park or walk down to the waterfront. The coffee served here is from Proud Mary Coffee, an Australian roaster with two locations in the U.S. “When we decide to roast our own beans, we want to follow their commitment to small farmers,” Akapo says. The single-origin tea is from Spirit Tea. The coffee offerings are seasonal, which Akapo says changes the complexity of the brew. In the summer, fruitier notes come through. The winter offers a bolder brew.

Irvington by way of Melbourne:

  • Need to know the difference between a flat white, long black, piccolo, and Melbourne cappuccino vs. local cappuccino? You’ve come to the right place.
  • The baristas get in on the act: Order an iced milky strawberry matcha, which uses one of LuDy’s fruit puree bases, or a Dylan, a honey and cinnamon latte, served hot or iced, and thank the baristas who “invented” these drinks.

 

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Don Carvajal Café

75 Main St, Irvington

Building up a following during his five years serving coffee and selling beans at the Irvington Farmers Market, Hector Carvajal, founder and CEO of Don Carvajal, had an affinity for the town. “I’d head to the waterfront and relax after the market. One day, I heard there was an available space near the market that I thought would work as a prep space,” he says. But upon seeing the space, Carvajal decided it was “too beautiful not to do something for the public – to give people the true Hector experience in terms of vibe, environment, music, and the smells of the coffee.” At Carvajal’s café, expect old-school records playing, great merch, counter seating, and both indoor and outdoor seating. Carvajal’s ethos for what he’s bringing to the Irvington scene: “coffee, community, and culture.”

The coffee roaster, by way of the Dominican Republic and the Bronx, opened his café in the suburbs in May. “I’ve found people here to be so supportive. They really encourage people who go after their dreams; I think more so than in New York City,” Carvajal says. Don Carvajal is a café where customers are encouraged to linger and ask questions. “I designed the space to be friendly, highly interactive, and educational,” he says. In the future, he’d love to host workshops to more fully explain “the world of coffee in general and Dominican coffee specifically.”

Raise Your Glass:

  • The Don, a cold brew infused with cinnamon, simple syrup, aromatic bitters
  • The Moka Pot experience, the stovetop coffee brewer, where each cup is individually brewed per order, was invented in Italy but is the No. 1 way people brew their coffee in the Dominican Republic, Carvajal says.
  • G’day Mate, a flat white, is on the menu here as well

 

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Wildcraft Baking Company

1 Bridge St, Ste 100, Irvington

The first of this trifecta was Wildcraft, leading the way in 2022, as the world started opening back up post-COVID. “We had been selling our gluten-free granola at farmers’ markets in the Rivertowns and, when we decided to open a retail space, Irvington seemed to be the organic next step,” says Brittany Vellucci, who owns Wildcraft with husband Michael Ridd and father Dominic Vellucci. Beyond being the space where the granola is made, the sunny shop with two tables sells baked goods, salads, and sandwiches. So it was logical, says Vellucci, to “serve beverages that match the quality and practices we put into our products.” They decided to partner with Irving Farm New York. “Like us, they focus on sustainability, regenerative practices, and taking care of their farmers.”

There are monthly or bimonthly tweaks to the coffee and tea menu, which Vellucci said she hopes present an opportunity for customer engagement. Wildcraft baristas pour a single-origin cold brew and “we’re happy to sample the one being featured, so it can be a jumping-off point for conversations about what’s being served,” she says. And it’s obvious that these conversations are taken seriously there – one of the offices in Wildcraft’s building complex has employees from Australia who visit Wildcraft. Before long, a flat white was added to the menu, and “we worked with the employees to make sure the drink met their expectations,” Vellucci says.

The tea, from In Pursuit of Tea, is an important component of Wildcraft’s beverage program also. “We brew our own chai in house and, when customers come in and smell those spices, that gets them talking as well.” Overall, she says the experience at the café should be twofold: Customers get what they’re looking for and may find themselves surprised as well.

Don’t Sleep on These Drinks:

  • Iced Cortado, which features cold-foamed milk sourced from Ronnybrook Farm
  • House-Brewed Brown Sugar Chai
  • Hot or Iced Elderflower Latte
  • Hot Chocolate featuring TCHO Dark or Callebaut Ruby chocolate, melted to order

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