On showing your respect and showing up to life (and caffeine-ban breakingly good coffee)

Some staples in life: coffee, tattoos and respect. All should be great. And the last should always be shown to those who make the first two.

And Nik, well, he makes great coffee. So great, in fact, I broke an eight-month doctor-ordered caffeine ban for a flat white (albeit single shot). And will do so again. And soon.

Nik also has some great tattoos. He got his first at sixteen, having worked&saved to pay his way. His Dad, not thinking Nik would actually go through with it, said he would quite happily reimburse Nik if he came home with one. Up(double)shot is that Nik didn’t need to work&save for that first one after all. (Talk about that feeling when you hand over your fully stamped buy-ten-coffees-and-get-the-eleventh-one-free card.)

Nik has been piecemeal putting together a solid body of work ever since. From the crow on his lower back – both covering off his love of birds and covering up a piece fallen-out-of-favour – to a “thought it’d be funny” gun on his gun (it is). He has ‘Invictus’ emblazoned across his chest for the poem’s poet’s creed: “throw whatever you like at me and I’ll still come out of it”.

Working in hospo, Nik has come across the understandably curious about his tattoos and then those who couldn’t care less. He’s also come up against those who question why he would even want tattoos and be all tattooed up quote unquote. He just doesn’t “see how a tattoo is going to change the way a barista serves you”.

And you know what Aretha Franklin would say, right?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Find out what it means to me

And according to Nik, respect in this industry means giving patrons what they want. When he goes out for a tipple he wants an Old Fashioned to “taste the way I know it should taste”, and he mirrors this approach when serving others. Making me a single shot flat white is a damned fine example of damned fine hospitality. It being a coffee order that should, frankly, come with training wheels, on the coffee hierarchy scale of fluffy to neat espresso.

Service without judgment. That’s respect. And providing such service when you yourself are judged, Nik recognises, is just how it is when working in hospitality. You open yourself up to judgment, “you’re communicating [who you are] more” and to more people. You still tamp the coffee and refill the water glasses regardless of whatever is thrown at you. Invictus indeed. 

Nik is someone who has shown up for life. A mover and a shaker (as well as an excellent coffee maker). He’s Taking Care of Business (R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Take care of TCB).

He’s the kind of person who enjoys the feeling of being tattooed, seeing how his body responds to the experience (the crow alone took about eight or nine hours – now that is something to show up to).

And he makes things happen. Having worked extensively in the hospitality trade from cocktails to coffee, both in New Zealand and overseas, he’s now putting that also solid body of work to work. He and good friend, Rewi McIntyre (also one with some fairly excellent ink), have set up STAPLE espresso bar on Victoria Street. No piecemealing about it on this one though. All in. Just like getting a tattoo. Committed.

He’s committed to making things happen for others too, promoting local producers of good stuff. (A hangover from working in an industry based on service? Not-your-usual, hair-of-the-dog cure kind of hangover.)

In stocking STAPLE with the good stuff, Nik has shown his respect for locals like Six Barrel Soda Co and Egmont Street Eatery. The latter’s catering gig, The Catering Studio, supplies salad, Jim, but not as we know it – bowled whirlwinds of flavour, colour and texture. Staple clubhouse rules apply: no limp lettuce leaf allowed.

And STAPLE may just fix everything serving up Eighthirty coffee, the first Wellington bean-there-done-that for the Auckland coffee roaster.

This place is breathing space of a place. And it’s slick. From the milk white grinder and long black-black Strada to the line-by-line design wooden accents. Make sure you check out the curves on those tables too.

Try the not-too-sweet sweet nut and fruit slice – nature’s lolly scramble goodness. I want the recipe, but I’ll just have to head back to STAPLE, break that caffeine ban and pick up a piece… for medicinal purposes only, of course.

So. Do it. Pay your respects. Make this place your staple. And don’t forget to tip.