If you do one thing, do it well, would have to be the motto of Dan Yee, co-founder of Artificer coffee in Surry Hills. Taking a coffee only approach to the competitive café market in inner Sydney marks out Artificer as a an outfit dedicated to their craft.
Occupying a corner lot at the leafier end of Bourke Street, the café looks out onto the cycleway through large clear glass windows, where customers sip espresso and filter-based coffees along benches that wrap around the store. Stepping inside, the pale wood panelling contrasts with the dark colour of the coffee equipment, the roaster that takes up the back half of the café and of course, the coffee itself.
While regulars know Artificer and Yee for their minimalist approach, collaborations and pop ups are how Yee spreads the gospel further. Yee is careful, however, to find a partner that melds with the approach of Artificer.
“Whenever we do collabs, we do it with something that is on brand or at the pointy end of what they do.“
Recently, Aritficer hosted the pop up of French brand Maison Kitsune and their café-inspired collection, simply titled, Café Kitsune. This worked for Yee as not only does the brand occupy a niche in the clothing market, their garments are known for being high quality.
“The culture of even doing collaborations,” reflected Yee, “It's usually people who specialise in what they do well coming together and the synergy in that.”
Generally, Artificer pursues a seasonal approach, that allows for the ever changing dynamics of the coffee bean to shine through. Similarly, having like-minded brands and operators share the space with the Artificer team continues the approach that Artificer is embodying.
“Lots of people when they talk about their favourite café, they'll say ‘I like that place, it's the same every time I go there,’ our concept is less of that, more of ‘I like that place, it's different every time I go there because of being seasonal and that's ok.’”
With four years in a competitive market and a highly sought after location, Yee and his team have figured out how to keep customers coming back, even if the core product stays consistent. Pop ups are one method to keep both staff and customers engaged.
“You get bored doing the same thing,” laughed Yee, and with a glint in his eye added, “with the Sydney market so fickle, it's good to remind people that we're still alive.”
But in doing so, Yee does not want to go overboard. When a café is designed to focus on an individual product, messing with the formula too much can lead to confusion.
“The reason why we set up where we set up, just sourcing coffee, roasting coffee, making coffee, was to focus on that and once you add in even putting a muffin into a brown paper bag and having to order them, having one extra thing to think about takes your mind off it.”