Boston’s Creme de la Crema

In what we hope will become a regular feature of this blog, Kait and I are diving in to our local scenes and pulling you in to the world of those who love all things food and drink. This week I checked out Boston’s first TNT event (a latte art competition) at soon-to-open Dwelltime. Although this event was not open to the public organizers say future ones will be, and baristas can get in on the "no pours barred" latte-art action every month at different host shops around Boston.

Kait’s a barista, and although I am an dedicated home brewer and love me some Boston coffee shops, I ain’t no barista, so I was a little intimidated to cover an event like this. For the sake of you people I swallowed my insecurities and trudged out to Dwelltime’s Broadway Street spot in Cambridge. Almost immediately all of my worries were put to rest. The atmosphere was very congenial and a little amped for some healthy competition. $5 was all it took to “throw down" and about twenty-three baristas signed up, making for a pretty sweet prize.

Dwelltime itself was a big draw- affiliated with local Arlington roaster Barismo, it has received a lot of press lately and is expected to become one of the major catalysts of a deepened coffee culture in Boston. While the space is not quite ready for launch, Tyler of Dwelltime gave me a sneak preview of what we can expect when they do open for business: “Pour overs all the time- maybe fun things like Siphon Sunday or Wood Neck Wednesday. We’re going to focus on putting out the highest quality coffee we can with great service. There’ll be a guest program- pretty much anything we can do to help out the coffee community in Cambridge and Boston." The space will be optimized for both customer and barista experience, says Dwelltime co-owner and “conceptual architect" (my words) Israel Fridman. The pub style bar will allow you to come in, sit down, and order an espresso right at your seat- no shuffling through a line. You can get cozy, your barista has room to spread out, and conversation will be encouraged- in sort, a very humanized experience.

Speaking of conversation, the people who showed up at the Throwdown (whether to compete, judge, or support) were awesome. Nice, engaging, no stuck up attitudes- just a love of coffee and respect for one another. I chatted with Ellen, Daria, and Wolfie, baristas from ERC and Pavement (Wolfie’s blog: Their advice for coffee consumers (like me)? Be nice and ask questions. “Treat it like you’re going to a nice restaurant," Wolfie says. “Would you tell the chef how to make the perfect spaghetti sauce, or would you trust he knows his craft?" Ellen adds, “Don’t be afraid to ask your barista what he/she is awesome at. We have different strengths."

Emphasizing different strengths was definitely a pillar of the Throwdown. TNT organizer and Dwelltime barista Pete Cannon simply says, “Community is worth more than competition. This is all about bringing people together." By that measurement alone, TNT was a huge success. Judges themselves were representative of diverse coffee partnerships: brothers Jack and Eric Hendler of Jack’s Abby Brewing have been experimenting with Barismo’s beans in their craft lagers and Gus Rancatore of Toscanini’s is one of the few area shops brewing with and carrying Barismo in addition to putting it (and whiskey) in his ice cream. Baristas and enthusiasts from many of the best Boston area shops were also represented: City Feed, Render, Blue State, Diesel, Cafe Nation, Voltage, and Pavement just to name a few. As the final brackets closed and we inched closer to the finals I counted all the faces in the room and stopped at around 78. The winner was about to be announced after all…

Oh, what? You thought I’d just tell you? Check out the video above and see for yourself. And remember- smile at your barista.

Dwelltime is located at 364 Broadway In Cambridge, right between Central and Iman. They hope to open sometime in February. You can follow their progress at or @dwelltimecoffee. Details on the next Thursday Night Throwdown can be found at or @TNT_Boston. Connect with this month’s sponsors, Jack’s Abby, at or @JacksAbby to find out more about coffee-lager wonderfulness.