NYC’s Bluestone Lane serves up premium coffee drinks in a relaxed, authentic cafe environment that reflects its Australian influence. Here, with talk with barista Kirk Downham about Bluestone’s coffee program and how it echoes the cafe culture of his hometown of Australia.
Tell us about your background. How did you become interested in coffee?
My background isn’t anything special, grew up all over Australia went to school and finished with no real clue of what I wanted to do with myself. My friend somehow got me a job in a small cafe at home and I was given the opportunity to learn how to make coffee. The second I was put behind the machine I fell in love, could not get enough of it. I wanted to know it all. My passion for coffee and the industry is on going and remaining as strong as it was the first day I was put behind a coffee machine.
How did you become a part of Bluestone Cafe?
I became a part of Bluestone in a pretty lucky way, I think. Nick Stone was in Melbourne, at the time I was running a shop called Green Eggs & Ham and he had shown his face a couple of times in my shop so I finally asked him where he was from. The answer was NYC and was followed by ‘ I would love for you to come work for us at Bluestone ‘ . Done deal, a few months past, visa approved, and I was in the states and working right away.
What’s unique about Bluestone?
The most unique thing about the Bluestone coffee experience, I think, is that everyone behind the machine has enough experience and knowledge to teach our customers what a good coffee is, and to also produce an amazing product every time.
Where do you get your coffee from?
Our espresso blend is roasted at home in Melbourne and shipped over to us fortnightly.The espresso is from a company called Niccolo and our blend consists of beans in a ratio of 40% Brazilian, 20% Guatemalan, 20% Indian, 10% Ethiopian and 10% from Papua New Guinea.This gives us a well balanced, medium roasted coffee that is easy drinking with a smooth bright beginning flavours of milk chocolate and ending of a soft nutty finish. We also serve drip coffee which is from Sightglass in San Fransisco.
What’s the difference between Australian coffee culture and US coffee culture?
I find that the Aussie coffee culture is further ahead in the specialty coffee area, but that isn’t the reason that our coffee culture is different or better. I feel that in Australian coffee culture is that it isn’t just about the coffee, it is the whole experience of coming into the shop and feeling like you are at home, you can just have a chat and feel welcome by the people surrounding you. Thats my favourite thing about Australians and our whole nature is to make people happy and welcome all the time, its a special experience for everyone that we get to meet whether we are working behind the machine, on the floor or in the kitchen.
What are the coffee drinks that Bluestone Lane is famous for?
We have a few signature beverages, would like to start with the most popular which is the Flat White. A Flat White is an espresso based milk beverage. It is in between a Latte and a Cappuccino but served with 5mm of froth, compared to a Latte having 1cm, and a Cappuccino having 1.5cm of froth. A Flat White is served all over Australia, and would be our most famous beverage. We also serve our Iced Lattes a little different in Australia – yes – milk, espresso and ice, BUT we throw a big friendly scoop of vanilla ice cream in there. Delicious.
What espresso machines do you use?
The machines we use in all of our stores are La Marzocco. Italian made and absolute work horses, they get the job done constantly with little maintenance needed. In the West Village location we run with a La Marzocco 3 group Linea PB which gets the job done a treat when pulling espresso and steaming milk.
How does your coffee pair with the menu at the Collective Cafe?
Our coffee pairs amazingly with all of our dishes. What more could you want in the morning than to get to work, have a Avo Smash and wash it down with a smooth ‘flatty’, as we Aussies call them. Or get in and have one of our Hot Quinoa Porridges with a creamy Cappuccino. Pairing our dishes and food is something I feel we do extremely well.
What are some tips for making great coffee at home?
Tips on making a good cuppa, well there are so many. If I am making brew at home I get pretty scientific about it all and pull out my scales, timer and my kettle. Start by knowing you dose weights and brew times. Research the brew methods that you want to take place in and find out what you perfect recipe needs to be for you.
What are you favorite dishes at Bluestone?
My top 3 dishes at Bluestone would be the Avo Smash, Pumpkin & Feta Fritters and lastly the Quinoa Porridge. You have to be sure to add an egg to the Smash and the Fritters otherwise you are missing out on the best part. Top coffee would be a Magic, this is more of a Melbourne coffee, it’s basically a double shot run shorter than normal so you end up with the sweetest part of the coffee and the milk steamed like a Flat White, but it is served in a tulip cup so there’s less milk. This is a must have at any of our locations.