When Malcolm and Julianne Lewis opened Matey's at the Esplanade in mid-January, it had already been a long, hot summer and NSW was burning.
Plumes of bushfire smoke could often be seen across Lake Macquarie from their vantage point at Warners Bay. But seasons change, as they do, and along came autumn. And a global pandemic.
Malcolm transformed a vintage caravan into the Matey's coffee van, parked it on the grounds of the Esplanade Motel, called him Trevor, and crossed his fingers. Six months later, business is booming.
"We've got five baristas that tick over throughout the week, plus me," Lewis told Food & Wine.
"I'm there helping out behind the scenes and behind the counter, and Julianne is at home doing the cooking and book work. I knew it would go well, but I didn't expect it to go so well, so quickly."
Lewis, a landscaper who is mad about coffee, had done his research and decided on coffee from Newcastle's own Sprocket.
"I wanted a coffee that was an all-rounder, that most people would like," he said.
"Our contact at Sprocket said we'd be doing really well when we used 10 kilograms of coffee a week, but that it would take us a while. We're now at 30 kilograms a week and it's taken us just six months."
Trevor is the second caravan he has converted into a business. The first was a travelling bar called The Globetrotter which he sold and can now be found at Bar Beach Bowling Club and at events across the region.
"I used to drive past the [Esplanade] motel every day, looking at the car park there and the garden, and one day spoke to the owner about my van and my ideas," Lewis said.
"The motel helps us and we help the motel, too, as they don't supply food to the rooms. I used to be a pastry cook a long time ago but Julianne has taken on the cooking role and is loving it, and doing a fantastic job."
Matey's offers cupcakes, slices, toasties, milkshakes, cold brews and lots of tasty treats for the kids, and will soon be taking custom orders for desserts as well.
They are also hoping to introduce "happy hour" at the van in the warmer months.
Lewis, you see, is as mad about beer as he is about good coffee.
"I started doing beer reviews years ago and I always wanted to get into brewing. Then I hit up a brewer at Morpeth who brews commercially out of a pub up there," he said.
"We worked together on a beer that I really wanted to bring out. Matey's Good Times, it's called, it's a pale ale. It used to be in a heap of pubs around Newcastle but I haven't had time to brew any for ages - hopefully I can have another crack at it soon."