Meet your Barista – Peregrine’s Matt

This month I was fortunate enough to steal some time from the very busy Matt Bryce of Peregrine Espresso. Matt hails from Loudon County and has been serving up your coffee in DC since 2010, first at Baked and Wired and now Peregrine. Here are some snippets of our conversation:

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Matt Bryce of Peregrine Espresso

So what brought you to DC?

Coffee. I’d worked in coffee in high school and college… I used to be in sales and I really didn’t like it… I decided to go back to coffee, so I sent Ryan (from Peregrine) a message – he was a sales person for Counter Culture and we’d met before. They weren’t hiring, but he said they’re opening a shop on 14th street and to keep in touch. I was kind of bummed, but I ended up working at Baked and Wired and they were great to me and I really enjoyed working there. Eventually Ryan got back in touch with me and they were opening up at 14th Street!

When we met you told me that you were specifically interested in learning more about espresso when you wanted to get back into coffee. What was it about espresso?

At the time for me it was the frontier. I’ve always been a home barista. As long as I’ve been into coffee I’ve been brewing coffee at home, and dialing in different brew methods, and different roasts, and various origins. Espresso was like weird to me, because it uses pressure and it’s really concentrated and the ratios and the solids that are extracted are all at a different relationship to one another. It was a big mystery to me so I wanted to learn more about it.

A friend of mine was running a coffee truck at the time and asked for me to come work with him. It was a lot of fun. That was my last time working with espresso… So it was exciting to think about moving to the city and seeing what it had to offer… I’ve always been in bands and thought there’s a great music scene in DC. {Check out some videos of Matt playing guitar on YouTube!}

When I got to Peregrine it was just about putting all my training into practice and then sort of a re-evaluation of things I’d learned through Counter Culture’s training program.

What do you do when you’re not coffee-ing?

I think people are always weirded out, because I’m 34. They are like “why are you 34 and work in a coffee gig??” I answer, “Because I love coffee!” If I’m not doing it here I’m doing it at home and not getting paid! So a lot of times I’m just making coffee at home.

I’m also in school full time, doing a Master’s program through the Antiochian Archdiocese in Theology and Byzantine Musicology. It’s been really fun. I just finished my first year – it’s a four year program… I’d like to teach!

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Even when he’s not working, Matt is talking coffee

We met through the class that Peregrine does at Union Market Test Kitchen (Better Home Brewing)- were you involved in the development of those, since you enjoy teaching?

Yeah, we were sort of re-evaluating our management structure and we wanted to have in-house training and more team building, so that’s how we got a Coffee Quality Manager or like a Beverage Director. And we had a team – it wasn’t just me. There was one of us at each location, and so we’d meet and work out what we wanted to do. It was fun. It was nice to be in that role and think about what it is that we were doing- people say that you learn best by teaching. It was sort of the next step in my development as a barista.

Do you see coffee in your career long term, maybe alongside your PhD or teaching?

I hope so. It’ll be an adventure to see how! I like what I do right now; I don’t know how that will continue to support me, but doesn’t mean I can’t be creative and come up with new and different ways to continue to explore. It’s the whole reason I got into coffee is the exploration of it and getting to know it. I’d like to learn more about roasting and learn more about sourcing and learn more about quality control and things like that. There’s a whole other world there so there’s still plenty of room to move around.

Are you interested in competition at all?

I’ve competed. I have also been involved in judging now for two years… Competition is really good in that it pushes our baristas and pushes our industry forward in terms of how we think about coffee and how coffee is perceived by the public, how we present it and just honing in our craft in general. But it is a lot of time and effort and money. My first time ever I was working two jobs… I was working at Peregrine and I was teaching music lessons, but I had to practice all the time… I had to ask myself if I was enjoying it. I enjoyed when I got there and competing, and I enjoyed presenting my coffee to the judges and meeting the judges and meeting other baristas, but the lead up to it was just so much.

What is your favorite drink to prepare?

One of my favorite drinks to prepare is a cortado. A cortado is espresso forward and espresso is probably my favorite drink. It still has to work with the milk but its relationship to the milk is different than with a cappuccino or latte. Finding that nuance that’s silky, delicious, and harmonious- it takes time, it takes focus and I like it. Texturally it’s one of my favorite drinks to make because it’s just so smooth. We serve it in glass and glass is my favorite vessel to serve anything in, because I really appreciate color.

Favorite region/origin?

That’s a hard one. In terms of an origin that consistently puts out excellent coffees every single time and is forgiving so that if I mess it up at home I still drink it (so I may not have dialed it in right but it still tastes good and the quality is excellent every single time) is the Kenya. Kenya is probably my favorite.

Brew method?

I switch it up. The last six months I’ve been using the clever dripper, but I’ve recently switched back to my old pal the Chemex. I’m using the Hologram blend from Counter Culture right now.

Do you have a favorite type of customer?

We’ve been really lucky at 14th Street. We have a lot of regulars who are understanding and who are excited to get a cup of coffee. I think that’s what it is, the excited customer I like. The customer who is interested in trying new things and to hone in their coffee at home. The customer who MAKES coffee at home. We’ve been super lucky – everybody we have has been so kind and engaged in our shop dynamic, we can’t really complain.

I think one thing I really appreciate about the shop, something that Ryan (Jensen, Peregrine owner) has always pushed is that we’re there for the neighborhood. We’re not there for ourselves. We might serve the coffee the way we like it, but we’re there to serve. Being available to all the types of customers we have is really what we’re doing. Trying to make sure that we’re educating and making sure that we’re soft and personable. A lot of people ask “am I ruining my coffee by putting creamer in it?” and I’m like, “This is your coffee, you drink it exactly how you want it, or else there’s no point in coming here!”

Anything else you want the world to know (asks the very humble blogger 🙂

If they want to stop by we’re happy to see them! We’ll do our best to make sure they leave feeling better than when they walked in!

Thank you Matt for a great coffee conversation! Go see Matt at Peregrine’s 14th Street location and try a Kenyan pourover or a silky cortado. And let us know who you’d like to know more about for next month’s Barista!

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

 

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