A man who certainly needs no introduction given his social media infamy is Jai Lott, Bluestone Lane’s Coffee Director. Jai is also the man behind the Instagram account @coffeewithjai (67.5k followers and counting).
Jai was kind enough to answer some questions…
Tell us about yourself (where are you from and how did you find yourself in New York and as Coffee Director of Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe?)
I am from Noosa, Australia. Its a small surf town with a great coffee scene. Tony Pantano (Previous GM of Greenwich) actually stumbled across my Instagram coffee account and noticed my wife and I were thinking of moving to the USA. A few emails later we were hooked.
What was your hospitality and coffee background in Australia?
I started at the bottom. Washing dishes and clearing tables. Funnily enough I was forced into being a Barista after avoiding it for 4 years. Eventually I was aked to be manager and told if I wanted it I needed to be willing to jump behind the machine. Over 12 years I kept moving up the ranks and doing some managerial roles at other cafes before opening my own little coffee spot.
What’s your general impression on the NYC coffee/cafe scene and do you think it’s changing? How does it compare from your hometown scene?
Per capita my home town possibly has the best coffee anywhere that I know of. A tiny town with an insanely high bar when it comes to barista expectation – and customers are very vocal about what they expect. I have been visiting New York for 12 years and only in the last 4 I would say the coffee bar has risen….fast! Australian culture has had a huge impact over here in New York and they are certainly leading the pack.
How have you found managing being Head of Coffee and what’s the most common feedback you get from customers when they come?
My role has been a whirlwind. There are infinite avenues in such a young scene and endless growth potential that I find myself constantly being challenged in the best possible way. Customers are eager to learn and once we convince them to try the Aussie style of coffee they are hooked.
Talk to us about the menu food & coffee – what are the most popular food and beverage dishes? Are there items where customers simply go “Holy Smokes Batman”?
The Flat white is the obvious crowd pleaser – the silkier, smoother brother of the old Latte. Avocado Smash and Fritters are also something that was never heard of funnily enough until recently and the freshness and healthy angle blows peoples minds when the try them. Instagram is drenched with Avocado nowadays.
We read from the press about certain celebrities coming regular “locals” at Collective Cafe, who are your favorites and what do they typically love to eat & drink?
Absolutely. I talked Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) into trying his first flat white recently. Aziz Ansari is also on to the Flat Whites. Hugh Jackman is always super friendly and pretty much every Victorias Secret Model has popped in.
Basically anyone that is mates with Taylor Swift 😉
Top 3 tips in Managing a NYC coffee program?
- It’s a young coffee scene and education is key for both staff and customers
- This city is immense. There is so much going on and moving forward that staying ahead of the pack is top priority
- Working with a rock solid roaster like our Melbourne based crew at Niccolo Coffee is crucial to keeping consistency in the cup.