Q+A: Jai Lott, Bluestone Lane
Bluestone Lane is an Australian-style cafe with great coffee and good people— and they're expanding rapidly across NYC. At their cafe in DUMBO, they're pushing the boundaries of the cafe experience with their gluten-free bakery Husk, an on-site roastery, and a bar! We spoke with Coffee Director Jai Lott about Bluestone Lane’s ambitious plans for the future of coffee.
What sets the Australian coffee experience apart from the American or NYC experience?
Bluestone Lane was originally founded by a team of Australian expats who wanted to introduce an Australian inspired hospitality experience to New Yorkers. The idea was to bring a slice of the Melbourne coffee scene to the United States. This scene is associated with high quality artisanal coffee, served with a personal touch. It is about finding that local cafe where you walk in the door and feel welcomed. It’s where the barista knows your name and your order, and the comfort and familiarity make this your favorite daily escape. It’s about enjoying coffee as an experience, rather than simply addressing a need for caffeine. This is the “Aussie” cafe culture that we know and love, and that we wanted to introduce to the USA.
We chose this spot because we wanted to be in the heart of a thriving, active community, that we believe to have a lot of potential to keep growing.
Jai Lott, Coffee Director at Bluestone Lane
There are fourteen Bluestone Lane Coffee Shops and eight Cafes in six US cities. Why did Bluestone Lane choose to locate in DUMBO?
DUMBO is our first Bluestone Lane location in Brooklyn. We chose this spot because we wanted to be in the heart of a thriving, active community, that we believe to have a lot of potential to keep growing. It is also home to the world’s most innovative companies including Etsy, Frog Design and WeWork, so it’s a great place for us to be surrounded by other pioneering brands.
The DUMBO location was the Gold Winner of the 2016 design100 New York Design Awards. Tell us about the atmosphere of the cafe.
Our DUMBO location features a change in aesthetic, which was designed to compliment Brooklyn’s diverse surroundings and to ensure that the space has a sophisticated feel to support our broader beverage offering. Having a liquor license at the location, we envisioned this cafe to regularly shift into an elegant event space, and also into a hot spot for locals to have a drink and a bite to eat during happy hour.
Tell us about the Bluestone Lane team. What is the work culture like?
Being a small company that is growing at such a rapid pace, our team has had to adjust and often wear many different hats! We have a lot of fun and enjoy every challenge that comes along.
You don’t only do coffee at your DUMBO cafe; it’s the first Bluestone Lane to have a full cocktail list that includes espresso cocktails, beer, and wine. Tell us about your approach to the beverage program.
Our DUMBO cafe was designed to shift every Thursday-Sunday into a hot spot for ‘locals hour’ in the early evening. We offer drink specials and bites which include the classic Aussie sausage roll and delicious charcuterie board. The espresso martini is also something we have been very excited to introduce to our beverage selection. It is a delicious combination of our premium espresso and alcohol, making it the perfect evening pick-me-up!
Jai, you're famous for your latte art. What is the most challenging design you’ve ever created?
Almost all latte art is quite challenging. The technical side of pouring latte art is not really the end game for me personally— my constant battle is chasing perfect symmetry and contrast. The more simple and clean, the better.
How do you create new latte designs? Do you sketch with pen and paper or with coffee and milk?
Pen and paper is exactly it. It is about understanding pouring white milk into dark espresso and where the negative spaces go, while still trying to remember it's all liquid and only wants to go in one direction.
You recently opened a roastery in DUMBO. Tell us about the ambition behind this expansion. Do you supply all Bluestone Lane locations with their beans?
DUMBO is such a fantastic hub for distribution. We reached a stage where it was the best move for us to shift to total control of our supply chain. We were then able to tweak our espresso profile to be more in line with what we wanted our locals to be tasting and ultimately get fresher coffee to all of our locations sooner.
We want to encourage corporations to bring their team down, take a tour, gain some insight into the history of roasting, learn to make great coffee with our educators— and sip on an espresso martini at the same time!
Jai Lott, Coffee Director at Bluestone Lane
You're expanding with a Barista Training Program and Public Education courses. Who do you imagine your typical student is?
For phase one, we are focusing on a more immersive experience in the Lab and Roastery. Our courses will be team-building focused and aimed at the corporate sector. We want to encourage corporations to bring their team down, take a tour, gain some insight into the history of roasting, learn to make great coffee with our educators— and sip on an espresso martini at the same time!
You're also opening a gluten-free bakery. Tell us about that program. Who will you supply?
Husk Bakeshop is our sister company, who shares the DUMBO Roastery facility space with us. We offer their delicious wholesome bread and baked goods exclusively at our cafes and coffee shops in Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Everything is baked in house from scratch, and all items are 100% gluten-free!
What can we expect from Bluestone Lane and the DUMBO cafe in the future?
As a company, we are continuing to expand. We are about to open our first location in Washington DC and recently made the move cross country to California. The DUMBO cafe always has something exciting going on, so keep your eyes out for upcoming open mic nights and other fun events that we would love the community to get involved in!
What is your favorite thing about DUMBO?
DUMBO is such a great place to live, work and enjoy. The proximity to Manhattan makes it an easy journey for our staff, who are often traveling between our stores and work spaces. Being our first and only Brooklyn location, we have loved meeting all of our new locals and definitely have a soft spot for Dumbo!