Sitting in the back room of the specialty espresso bar Nexus, I feel like a little boy who has been granted access to the highly guarded, super-secret stealth facility of his best friends treehouse.
The proprietor of Nexus, Louis Lam, and I, sit on a couch out the back of the store, surrounded by bags of beans, various artworks that passing coffee addicted artists have imparted, and a cadillac-sized coffee machine yet to be unpacked.
Grinning like a Cantonese Cheshire Cat, Louis shows me the precise way to pour the best POUR-OVER coffee. I’m still pretending to listen to his instructions- since the mango notes of single origin Kenyan coffee rose out of the filter, I’ve been deaf to all other sounds.
‘It’s seriously caffeinated,’ he warns me, as I down sweet mouthfuls of the coffee nectar, ‘I tried a cupful, at 8pm the other night. I was still bouncing around at 3 am.’
I think I’ll be okay, it’s only 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
‘You’re your own guinea pig?’
‘At least it’s ethical experimentation.’ His cheshire-cat smile lingers in the air.
Though Louis has, in my opinion, already achieved the status of owning the best coffee store in Perth, he hasn’t always been a coffee scientist turned guinea pig.
A good cup of coffee can break the routine of the day, and no matter how stressful or difficult life is, those little moments of peace are a wonderful restorative
Louis immigrated to Sydney from Hong Kong with his family when he was nine, and his Dad began working as a chef in what has now become Sydneys’ Chinatown. Growing up working in hospitality, Louis was exposed to the inside of restaurants and business ownership, where ‘there was always something going on. It was really busy, but working with people and seeing what hard work could achieve was a great experience.’
Louis graduated from the University of Technology (Sydney) with a degree in Nursing in 1994. He worked as a coordinator in the disability sector and completed a Psyche major in 1998, when he started working in vocational training for people with chronic disabilities.
‘It was a great experience for me. I love working with people, and it makes you realise both how lucky you are as a person, and how lucky you are to be able to have a positive impact on peoples lives.’
‘It was around this time that I began to frequent specialty coffee stores in Sydney. I really liked sitting down to appreciate a good coffee, and talk to people that were really enthusiastic about making good coffee. Through that mutual connection, I made lots of friends, people that have since taught me a lot about the coffee industry. I also liked how a good cup of coffee could break the routine of the day, and no matter how stressful or difficult life was, those little moments of peace were a wonderful restorative.’
After an opportunity arose to work as a director for a small business in Sydney, Louis felt ready to take the next step and start his own business, combining his greatest passions, working with people, and making great coffee.
Louis spent this last year as a sabbatical learning as much as he could about the coffee industry, and the investment, both of his own time and finances, required to provide a specialist service.
Nexus is Latin for connection. I chose the name because that’s what we want to do: connect with people through our specialist coffee
‘I decided on the name Nexus, with my wife, Annie, because Perth has always had a lot of connections for us. Annie’s family are from here, and we have been back and forth the last 10 years visiting. The pace of life in Perth really appealed to me, and I thought it would be a great place to raise a family and start a business.’
‘Nexus also refers to the connections that we strive to make with our customers, and our customers to one another, in their appreciation of coffee and the finer things in life. Taking a moment out of time to reflect on what you are doing in the given moment. There aren’t too many things that allow you to do that nowadays. Even coffee is usually something people grab on the go. I want to provide people with an alternative approach to coffee and coffee appreciation. I want to show people what coffee can be. That’s my passion’
And it’s not hard to see. For all the trials and tribulations of starting a niche coffee business in a new state, Louis has loved every minute of it.
I love coming to work in the morning. I can’t wait! I get to see my staff, and my regulars, who are like family to me.
I first discovered Nexus shortly after it opened in March this year. It was local, and I had heard through a friend that the owner was a really nice guy that loved to talk about coffee. Besides Louis’ friendliness and personal love for coffee- rarely do I visit when he doesn’t have a new coffee beverage to harpoon my already irreversibly caffeine-addicted nervous system with- the quality that really stands out is that Nexus do not settle for being ‘good enough.’ Louis and his team are always trying something different, experimenting with new blends, preparation methods, juices, and new food and coffee combinations.
Too many coffee stores in Perth are established by excellent baristas who build up their clientele, and sell the business at it’s peak. The consequence is a once great espresso bar slumps into becoming the dreaded JAC (Just another café). Louis’ drive to produce the best cup of Joe and keep mixing things up for his regulars is a form of consideration and care that modern restaurants and cafes are sorely devoid of.
True to form, Louis and his team are already working on their magic acts for summer.
‘It’s a little disconcerting, how many of my customers have told me that they don’t drink coffee in summer.’
To combat this inanity, (I myself would drink coffee in my sleep were it not a burns risk) Louis is introducing a range of iced coffees, iced long blacks, frappes, coffee tonics, and juices for the masses. To say nothing of the sensational foods on offer (of which I have said very little because the food Nexus sells is merely to complement ones’ coffee drinking experience, Louis has told me).
Whether you want to test the credibility of my words, try three different types of coffee in one sitting, or learn about the best coffee regions in the world, Nexus is the best place to start. It’s not a coffee shop. It’s an experience.