By Hylan Joseph
Jay Kistner and his team at Dolce Neve remind of my years working in Fine Dining. He and his team embody that limitless drive to provide both quality technical service and customer service with the added humility you find from truly great professionals. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jay, his wife Heather, and his team for almost fifteen years. It was almost impossible to get him in one place to do this interview as I know him well enough to know he is one of the hardest working guys in know.
Coffee Technicians Guild, Meet Jay Kistner of Dolce Neve.
In the industry since:
My career as a technician started in 1994 in the North Bay (California).
Drinking coffee since:
I have been drinking coffee since 1990
Favorite coffee origin:
My favorite origin depends on mood, but I can narrow it down to Ethiopia and Guatemala.
USAG Italian thin open-end wrenches, a gift from a true OG tech that spent 7 years working with the Dolce Neve team (Italo retired - Tech for 37 years 50% Italy 50% San Francisco / Bay Area. Grazie Italo.
Santa Cruz mountains, San Jose, Chico area and then Sonoma county for the past 27 years.
Tell us something about yourself:
I love food! And maybe a couple other light vices.
How and why did you start working in the espresso business?
I was a chef for 9 years and decided to start a side business with a friend. He had just moved back to Sonoma County from Seattle and granita machines were going crazy there (he said).
I sourced berries from local farmers I was already working with as a chef. I made granita mix out of organic, locally-farmed berries and a simple syrup using white beat sugar. My business partner lasted two weeks before resigning. I then had my money all in and had to continue. I truly built my company off a 50-pound basket of golden raspberries.
Business blossomed and then I started having issues with the old Ugolini granita machines. I was forced to know this unit backwards and forwards, mostly soldering on relays to the CPU and gaskets and seals. I was at a cafe knee deep into the repair and the guy behind me was fixing an old Wega espresso machine. I could feel him watching me work then he spoke, “Wow if you could work on those you could work on espresso machines, easy.” I took that in and thought about it. I put that guy out of business in just a few months. Now when I reflect back about what he said to me, I think he was probably trying to recruit me. Oops.
Why is it gratifying to you to work in coffee?
Love the culinary aspect of the coffee and it’s a drug of choice.
Favorite aspect of the job?
I like the change of atmosphere throughout the day. I also enjoy the rewarding feeling bringing someone back in service in a timely fashion.
What drives you to do great work?
Thank you for the assumption that I do great work. I couldn’t see it any other way. It has to be emotionally rewarding and that just doesn’t happen by doing bad work. Compromised work never saves you time in the end game.
Favorite repair trick?
Use quality tools, OEM parts, and I like to use listening and touch (like feeling hoses for water flow) to learn the personality of each make and models.
Your reputation for customer service in the Bay Area is bar none. How do you drive this with your techs?
I think what would answer this question the best would be a quote from Charles, one of our techs, “Lead from the trenches not from the throne.” I find it best to be very hands-on in this business. We are a team with a common goal to offer quality care and professionalism. It’s important to understand the impact our client may be experiencing by having the tool of their trade not functioning. This mental approach should cultivate a strong work ethic as a team.