Exclusive: Nemesis brews up the future of Vancouver’s coffee
It’s an open secret that Vancouver has got one of the best coffee scenes in Canada. From veterans to newcomers, this city is full of great spots. However, one of the newest, Nemesis Coffee, might just be Vancouver’s final push towards international acclaim.
Opening on Valentine’s Day in 2017, Nemesis set out to raise the bar for the coffee shop experience while lowering the perceived barriers of appreciating good coffee. Have you ever walked into a coffee shop and wondered if you need to be a barista yourself to ask about the drinks? Yeah, Nemesis wants to give off the exact opposite impression.
Headed by Jess Reno, Nemesis has quickly become a favourite for fans and critics alike, winning best coffee shop at the Snobby Awards for the last two years (that’s a 100% success rate, for those counting at home). With a food and weekend brunch program from Jacob Deacon-Evans (formerly at Wildebeest) and handmade pastries by Kirk Switzer (formerly at Fol Epi and Woodland Bread), you don’t have to worry about the quality of your croissant either.
But enough about the present, we at Curiocity are a lot more interested in Nemesis’ future, and there is a lot to talk about. Luckily, we got to speak with Jess directly, and were able to find out what 2019 has in store.
First off, anyone following them on social media knows that they’ve got two locations set to open this year. The first will be in the Polygon Gallery, North Vancouver’s newest mainstay for photography and media-based art. Jess is hoping that the Polygon location will be finished by end of April or early May, perfect timing for exploring the Lonsdale Quay on a weekend. Immediately, we think back to some of the coffee shops in cities like Seoul or Tokyo- where the division between art and coffee is almost nonexistent, and the two spaces coexist harmoniously. If it sounds fancy, that’s because it is, but then you realize that the prices are no different from your favourite drinks at Starbucks, and the baristas are warmer to boot.
The next space they’re planning will be even wilder. If you’ve driven past the new Emily Carr, chances are you’ve noticed that red, flower-shaped building (designed by Perkins + Will). You can probably guess what we’re going to say next- that’s going to be their third location. The tentative plan is to open early fall, and this is the spot where Jess and his team will be pulling out all the stops. With an emphasis on the vertical integration of Nemesis’ products, this location with feature both a micro-farm (for the food program) and, drumroll please, a micro-roaster so that Nemesis can finally start to create their own roasts. You heard us right, Nemesis has dominated Vancouver’s coffee scene without having their own roasts available (that’s practically sacrilege here). This third location will host events, offer training programs, and give patrons a chance to talk directly with the roasters.
Of course, having a good space means nothing if you don’t have a good community to support it, and Jess appreciates this more than most. Have you noticed those smiley faces brightening up Vancouver’s streets? That’s @nicenothings, who was recently invited by Nemesis to do an installation and pop-up. He’s the first of their recurring #friendsofnemesis series, which Jess hopes will shine a spotlight on Vancouver’s creative scene. The #friendsofnemesis series will include an interview as well as a collaborative project. For artists, that means an installation, for musicians, it’ll be a concert or a DJ set. After hearing Jess talk about it, we’d be surprised if a lot of the time it’s not both.
To end things off, Jess talked with us about Nemesis’ upcoming 2 year anniversary. Not one to shy away from growth, Nemesis will be introducing an entirely new, 7 day a week brunch program and will be getting a liquor license (we hope their taste in beer is as good as their taste in coffee). The anniversary will be rolling out over four days starting on Valentine’s, so stay tuned to their Instagram for information.
Can’t wait until the new openings to try Nemesis out, or looking for an excuse to go there again? We asked Jess for his current top picks off the menu. For coffee, he suggests chatting with the barista to find your favourite espresso or filter/brew based drink, since their coffee menu is constantly changing. Craving a little pastry alongside it? Go for the pistachio kouign-amann, which is a kind of crunchy, smaller version of a croissant (we don’t really know how to describe them other than that, but trust us). Getting some weekend brunch? Try the beef and squash hash, which has a seared flank steak, heirloom squash, fingerling potatoes and a poached egg, finished with a house squash ‘XO’ sauce.
We at Curiocity thank Jess for chatting with us, and look forward to following Nemesis throughout 2019!
Where: 302 W Hastings Street
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8AM-6PM, and Saturday/Sunday 9AM-5PM