Barista Profile – Thomas Suprenant

[Over the last several months, I have spent quite a few hours in cafés, learning about coffee and giving my impressions of the cafés. It has been fun. There are so many good cafés and I have been spoiled to be able try so many different (and high-quality) coffees. While I love the adventure, one of the downsides of doing this is that I feel an obligation to keep looking for new cafés all the time, and I never really become a regular at any of them.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to focus more on the people and the stories behind the coffee shops in this city as opposed to the cafés themselves. I am still going to write the occasional café review (there are more cafés that I want to visit), but that will be less of a focus. Instead, I will be working to meet people and talk about a variety of coffee-related things. If you are someone who has a café, is a barista, roasts coffee or just loves coffee and has a unique story to tell, let me know what you are up to and I will share your story here. I would like to interview you and learn more about the great things you are doing (if you are doing something great that is not related to coffee, we can figure out some tie-in, even if we just sit down over a cup of good coffee). The following is the first post in that direction.]

Thomas Suprenant is one of the skilled baristas at Cellar Door Coffee Roasters. In the picture above, he is competing at his first Northwest Regional Barista Championship in January. On my recent stop at the café, Thomas gave me a tour and sat down to tell me a little bit of his own story. Many thanks to Cassie, the other barista on duty, for taking care of the café while we were talking.

CPDX: Where are you from and how did you get into coffee?

TS: I’m from Western Massachusetts, which is way different than Boston. I was not a coffee drinker growing up and my appreciation for coffee began while I was studying recording/audio engineering in Boston. I started going to a café called 1369 in Central Square and drinking mostly brewed coffee. Over time, I began trying different drinks and realized that there were lots of things I didn’t know about coffee.

CPDX: Massachusetts is a long way from Oregon, how did you make it to Portland?

TS: My girlfriend and I were getting priced out of Boston, so we started looking for places to move. We made a list of potential cities where we might want to move. I had heard some good things about Portland, especially about the music scene—so we decided to move out here. At first, I started working in music, running live sound. I eventually got a job as a barista, and began to get more deeply into coffee.

I spent a few years in Portland doing that and then decided to move to Seattle. After a year up there, I moved back to Portland and got married. About a year and a half ago, I started working at Cellar Door. In addition to working at the café, I recently started Free Pour Radio, a series of podcasts that talk about coffee. It combines my interests of recording, audio engineering and coffee. My boss, Jeremy Adams, is the host of the show.

CPDX: What made you decide to enter the NWRBC?

TS: I had been in coffee for about six years and competing was something I had wanted to do for a long time. This year Kelly [another Cellar Door barista] and I decided to do it. We put in a lot of time practicing and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

CPDX: What did you think of your performance?

TS: Well, I probably should have gotten my routine down a little earlier. It would have helped me finish on time [he went over by 30 seconds]. I felt like I was rambling a little.

CPDX: What was your favorite part of the competition?

Hanging out with the other baristas. It’s a cool group of people. Even though we were competing, we were still friendly. Everyone understands that we all know very little about coffee, and we’re just trying to share our knowledge with people.

CPDX: Do you plan to compete again?

TS: Definitely. It was a lot of fun and I know I can do a better job.