Chef Darren Ho started his career at a young age, working in the kitchens of his family’s Chinese restaurants. After leaving school he served a four-year apprenticeship at Burswood restaurant Alure, then became head chef at North Perth cocktail bar The Classroom. Discovering a passion for coffee roasting, Ho and partner Tracey Koh travelled to Hawaii to learn the trade on a coffee farm, then Ho spent two years roasting at Toby’s Estate. The pair then launched Artem Coffee as a pop-up cart.
Artem now has a permanent home just off Canning Highway. A serendipitous encounter during Artem's residency at Fremantle pop-up hub Many helped secure its enviable location next to Mount Pleasant's new Woolworths.
“That was really hard slog, tough times for us,” says Ho. “But we had a regular customer who works for Woolworths. When he found out that this place was opening, he said ‘Darren, if you want it, it’s yours’. It was a blessing.”
Artem’s specialty coffee has attracted many of Perth’s top coffee folks. The house beans are from Asprounion – a Colombian-based cooperative of direct-trade farmers and coffee producers, established by Mauricio Velasquez of Fremantle’s Micro Lote Coffee – and roasted at Lathlain cafe and roastery Laika to Ho’s own recipe. Single origins from different roasters are rotated each week on batch.
Ho is also well-known around the Perth cafe scene for his smoked meats, and his dedication to the craft is very much part of Artem’s offering. The best example is his Reuben sandwich, which is served on weekends only.
“Smoking barbeque meats is a hobby of mine; I really like curing meats as well,” he says. “My favourite sandwich is a Reuben. I had a nice one in the States and no-one was really doing one [in Perth], so I wanted to focus on making a great pastrami.”
Food is made in-house wherever possible. Chilli scrambled eggs are made with a house chilli sauce that’s fermented for three weeks. When it comes to making the ham-and-cheese croissants, Ho doesn’t need to go next door to the supermarket to grab the ham: instead, he reaches for his own version, made by brining pork forequarter in aromatics, then dry-rubbing and smoking the meat. And the pillowy doughnuts are good enough to compete for the title of Best in Perth.
“We’re here at 4.30 every morning making doughnuts,” says Ho. “It’s all about the dough, it has to shine. I keep the flavour pairings quite simple. Classic curd, classic jam.”
While seating is limited inside, Artem has an outdoor area which Ho plans to use for summer evening events.
“I want to do burgers,” he says. “My Dad makes really good satay, so I want to do satay nights as well. There won’t really be a theme, just keep it simple and fun.”
Mon to Sat 7am–3pm