Jaw-Dropping New Nemesis Coffee GNW Will Make You Drool [Interview]
Drooling: This is a new feature where we do deep dives and get into the nitty-gritty details on topics we’re fascinated with or in-depth interviews with those in the food industry. You’ll end up drooling by the end.
By now you’ve probably heard and seen some things about the jaw-dropping new Nemesis Coffee Great Northern Way location that recently opened.
It’s shockingly beautiful and offers the dope cup of joe and baked goods you’d expect from a top coffee shop brand like Nemesis.
But very few people are talking about all the crazy details that went into the Great Northern Way location. Like it is insane.
So we spoke with Nemesis’ Head of Social, Jamie Smith to get the drooling details.
Can you introduce yourself and what’s your role at Nemesis?
[Jamie] I’m Jamie Smith. I am the Head of Social Media at Nemesis. I kind of handle all press and PR-related activities. But like everyone at Nemesis, we all wear a lot of different hats. So everyone kind of does a lot of other stuff.
Previously to doing the social media, I was the Coffee Director and helped import and source the coffee we used.
But now that we’ve moved into roasting our own coffee, Damien has taken on green bean buying since he has a plethora of knowledge around green bean sourcing.
So for those who don’t know about Nemesis, can you give us the background and origin story?
[Jamie] Yeah, so Nemesis started off with the concept of being a cultural magazine.
Jess, the founder, wanted to incorporate all his love and wants into one platform. We didn’t really know much about how to start a magazine, but he knew a lot about coffee since he was a barista and worked all over the city in different spots.
So he got together with some friends and decided to open Nemesis as a coffee shop.
But we’re still keeping the same ethos, vision, and goal of trying to be a community that brings people together. That means using Nemesis as a hub for meeting, conversing, and a hub for creatives and like-minded people to just hang out over coffee and good food.
The word nemesis is actually pretty unique as well and has acquired sort of a demonic meaning to it.
But all of it feeds back into the reason why we use the heart as a symbol. Specifically, we use an upside-down heart to express we’re the opposite of that negative connotation.
So the opposite of a nemesis is just the opposite of the heart – which is upside down.
Basically, the opposite of nemesis means to be like a friend to everyone. Everyone is family, everyone is a friend, and everyone is our people.
Yeah, also the funny thing about the heart is it’s a symbol that everyone can do with their own hands. That is where the idea originated from for our logo.
Can you tell us about this Nemesis GNW location?
[Jamie] For the exterior, Low Tide – who is the developer that owns this area, wanted to create a really unique building in the middle of this growing environment.
So Low Tide approached Perkins & Will and worked together to develop this building, something that was really outstanding and not the norm.
Yehia, the Lead Architect and Associate Principal at Perkins & Will, had this concept of a rose or tulip, that was upside down and coming out of the ground. He wanted to use this building as a catalyst for the community.
Imagine that people are like bees and interact like bees. When they visit a home, they visit a flower and then go off to other areas. So by conceptualizing this location as a gigantic flower, it means that this location will bring lots of bees (lots of people) to our home and we act as a catalyst of community.
The design is actually very sustainable as well. The whole building is completely made out of wood and have these really intricate parametric curves to form these petals, which are made from 13,000 overlapping tiles.
Can you tell me about the interior?
[Jamie] This is what we’ve kind of envisioned in the later stages.
We put up these really incredibly delicate fabric fins to simulate and give you the feeling of being inside of a mushroom. It’s really interesting how, as the air comes into the room it’s almost like the room is breathing. And it just brings this building to life and adds some additional dimension like a living organism.
It was incredibly difficult to get these fins in place. The city was concerned with how flammable these fins are.
The thing is, every three fins there’s a slight cut out that is specifically designed to channel smoke if there ever a fire. It would collect the smoke, and then channel it into one area, so that the sprinkler system can effectively put out a fire in one particular area and not the rest of the room.
So a few more really cool points: is how everything lines up. You’ll notice the concrete on the floor, the way the floors laid in the blocks, lines up perfectly with the lines in the bar, and then the lines in the glass. And the lights with the steel rods that come out, and the mirrors in the middle are all completely in line too.
There’s a really nice transition from glass in the roastery so you can perfectly see through into the roastery and see exactly what’s happening in there. Then it transforms into somewhat of a two-way mirror so you can kind of see-through what’s going on in the kitchen, but not 100%.
Then that slowly transitions into a full mirror. Full reflective mirror on the far side, by the brew bar and the slow bar over there actually purposely hides the washrooms.
There is a nice round table just as you enter the shop. It’s going to have a big tree inside it, similar to the birch trees that are outside. It’s gonna be really tall, nine-foot-tall by seven-foot wide. So big long branches coming over the top and just really bring in like the outside inside.
It kind of fits really nicely with the curves of the ceiling and the underside of the mushroom. Just to really bring like, outside inside nature kind of feeling back together.
As you walk in the entry door, framing the pastry case, the espresso machine, and also the roastery as well. It creates a really nice synergy and route while you walk in through one exit and then fold the room around, and then back out through the doors onto the road and scraped all the way into the patio. So it’s like a really nice, relaxed motion of an experience.
So what kind of offering will this location have?
[Jamie]: This location emphasizes the roastery. That means opening it up to the public to see how we are approaching coffee, how we roast coffee, and how we source coffee.
We want people to see it in action, which is the reason behind the glass walls and being able to see into the roastery. The same coffee will then be served at the espresso machine and the filter bar.
We signed up for nine coffees from nine different origins, which is an incredible feat right from opening. Offering nine coffees is ridiculous. It’s such a difficult thing to do.
Moving into the kitchen, we have a lot of like a very, very intentional seasonal menu. So the thought process of it is to be as sustainable as possible and be very vegetarian-focused.
But we’re not calling ourselves as a vegetarian restaurant at all as we do fried chicken.
We do little quirky things where we use the leftover milk from when we steam milk, to turn that into ricotta. We then use that ricotta in our like French toast. The byproduct of that ricotta is then used to brine the chicken for the fried chicken.
So we’re trying to be as cognizant as possible with our waste and in our environmental impacts, and being very aware of portion size. So by using a small portion size, we encourage sharing and a family element.
We certainly want to play on a barbecue or a backyard element. So make people feel like they’re in their own backyard with the friends or with the family. Technically we’re not gonna be a barbecue place, but we do have fried chicken on the menu!
For the fried chicken we put our spin on it. Lots of umami, lots of lots of salts, lots of sourness, lots of acidity but all very well balanced.
Are any of the favourite items from the other locations available here?
[Jamie] No, not at all really. The closest thing we have is a seasonal toast, which does have avocado on it. The avocado toast was like synonymous with all the other locations. You’ll see this later but we take a much more elevated approach to the menu here.
We have the classic french toast that we became famous for when we launched brunch back in 2019. But here we elevate that experience and use much more seasonal fruits instead of citrus fruits that we previously used. For instance, now we’re using rhubarb but rhubarb is coming to an end in the next few weeks. So it’ll be strawberries next..
So we’ll keep on rotating and be ever-changing.
We are going to offer breakfast sandwiches as well. They’ll be meat breakfast sandwiches, like bacon, and also vegetarian options.
Being in Mount Pleasant…it is definitely a demographic where more people perhaps don’t eat meat and are vegan. So just being very cognizant of that and trying to cater to all walks of life.
So what about the baked goods here?
[Jamie] Under the Nemesis umbrella is Dope Bakehouse. Dope Bakehouse is our flex and our approach to pastry. It is a much more playful brand than Nemesis.
Nemesis is very clean, crisp, and meticulous. While Dope Bakehouse is still meticulous, it’s much more playful. It’s like a smiley face logo with someone sticking their tongue out. It’s called Dope because it is dope, right? It’s fun. It’s lively, it’s bright blue.
We try to use what is seasonal in the pastries. So like you see like a rhubarb croissant or raspberry croffin just to name a few there.
Also, we try a few quirky things and try to incorporate the coffee side into it. So the tiramisu croissant, we actually use our own coffee. We actually use our own espresso to create a syrup and put that in the tiramisu croissants. All of those can be conceptualized that the Dope Bakehousee over at North Vancouver.
We do have a commissary kitchen over this side of the water that supplies our Gastown location and this location. The Polygon location has been such a success that it can only handle the Polygon consumption at the moment.
So yeah, as we grow, we’ll have to find a bigger location, perhaps to create another bakery.
I see that you guys have your famous cookie here.
Yeah, it’s city famous and quite rightly so. Dubbed the best cookie in the city by a lot of people.
So yeah, smokes salts cashew chocolate chip. Incredible. I’ve recently turned vegan so I can’t afford to eat it anymore.
You talked about how you guys are now roasting your own coffee?
[Jamie]: Yes so we’ll have nine origins to start off with this year. It should last us just a little bit over six months hopefully. Damien, our green bean buyer, also has a partnership with a farm in India with his good friend Ashok. Damien partnered with Ashok to help create better products, help him with his quality, and it really elevated Indian coffee. He’s done an awful lot for Indian coffee and especially in the region of that farm.
We have an espresso that is gonna be our staple espresso for a short while, before we switch over to Brazil and then back to India and then back to Brazil. That is just so we’re making sure that we’re using fresh crop coffee and we’re not using stale coffee.
Coffee doesn’t always necessarily travel well, from origin. So you just got to make sure using fresh crop where possible.
We also have a very extensive Filter menu. We have seven coffees for filter, like Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Colombia. No African coffees just yet. African coffees we’re starting to just get the samples in now. So we’ll start to get like Ethiopia and Kenya within the next few weeks after roasting. And then after sample roasting that will then like, essentially, may or may not bear depending on the samples. But near the end of the year, we’ll start to see African coffees.
We have a Slayer espresso machine and two incredible grinders called the E65-S. They’re incredible grinders that are very, very consistent and has lots to play with in terms of parameters with the Slayer. We can really dial in our recipe and there’s a lot of connection to the roastery obviously since it’s right next to it.
So whatever we can emulate in the roastery here, you’ll be able to see it across all our locations. Quality will not slip with this Nemesis. If anything it’ll be it’ll be even better, it’d be even more consistent because we have complete control now over the coffee we serve.
Previously, as a multi-roaster you’re at the mercy of the coffee you buy. Although we always sourced incredible coffee with people that we trust…it’s coffees roasted with different profiles and different approaches to coffee.
None of them are right and none of them are wrong, it’s just their approach. It’s just like cooking right? Now we have one approach to coffee. So they’ll be much more dialed in with how we execute this coffee.
We also we have a batch brew offering, which is commonly called drip coffee here. If somebody wants a quick coffee to go, we can do that if you don’t particularly want to filter.
Something we encourage is dialogue around coffee and education. We created a slow bar in the corner where people can take their time to chat with the barista. They’re able to sit on both sides of the bar so they can have like a full-on bird’s eye view of exactly what the barista is doing.
You’re more than happy to open up dialogue around the coffee we serve, where it’s from, the processing methods, and why we choose to brew it in a particular way. That’s a spot for hanging out with the coffee geeks and the coffee nerds like myself – like everyone that works here.
You also talked about having some activities at night?
[Jamie] A night time service is something we’ve always wanted to do. At Gastown we tried a few times and it worked. This is very much a location that is built for this. It’s nice and quiet but it’s like really beautiful outside dining experience, where we can have nice low hanging lights and trees, and gentle music playing.
So the idea is very much to use this space and take it from a daytime service to a nighttime service. As we get our liquor license we will share more information about that. But we want to open this up for as long as possible and transition from perhaps into a cafe that does incredible food and perhaps into more of a restaurant. It is something that we’re just toiling around with the idea.
Now, it would definitely not be a really high-end restaurant experience, even though the food will still be parallel to what you would expect in a high dining restaurant. But it’ll be much more approachable with a much more casual laid back Nemesis-style of service.
Something we pride ourselves on is our style of service. It’s very friendly, it’s very warm, it’s always family orientated. So we’re still figuring out that program and exactly what that’s gonna look like but you can certainly expect high quality food, elevated experience, wine, cocktails and just a good time.
That’s exactly what Vancouver needs more of.
[Jamie] Yeah, exactly. We’re just trying to bring everyone together literally all under one roof and just let everyone hang out together post “this” world we’re living in.
And what must-get item would you recommend for someone who has never been to Nemesis before?
[Jamie] I would say the Porchetta Sandwich. It is something we’ve never done before. It perhaps is something that a lot of places do, but I don’t think anyone takes it with the same level of detail and care and execution that we have. Like we bake the bread ourselves, we cure the meat ourselves.
So much detail and so much energy has gone into that one particular dish. I think that’s gonna be the biggest hit on the menu for sure.
Any last words?
[Jamie] We’re excited! It certainly is what we’ve been waiting for and we want this place to be filled with people safely.
Yeah, we want this place to be pumping, music playing and smiles and happy faces. And just give this city something back. Which this whole thing about Nemsis is for the people. It’s for everyone else to enjoy.
We tried to create spaces that are safe and warm and inviting and just somewhere where people can just hang out with friends and just be family. So that’s that’s kind of our goal and that’s what we’re setting out to do.
*Editor’s Note: Responses are slightly edited for clarity.
Address: 555 Great Northern Way, Vancouver, BC V5T 1E1, Canada Hours: Mon – Fri 8AM – 4PM | Sat – Sun 9AM – 5PM