Jaho Coffee & Tea’s Latest Café Is in Tokyo

The Salem roasters are keeping an eye out for more Boston-area opportunities, too.

Jaho Coffee Tokyo. / Photo provided

Jaho Coffee Tokyo. / Photo provided

Japan’s thirst for coffee is among the strongest in the world, and it was in Tokyo where Jaho Coffee & Tea founder Anil Mezini was first inspired to open a café. More than a decade later, he’s completing the circle: Jaho just opened its first international location in the Japanese capital.

Jaho is a coffee roaster and café in Salem. It has additional locations in Boston’s South End and Downtown Crossing, which is also a wine bar.

Mezini studied abroad in Tokyo, and when he returned to Salem for his sophomore year of college in 2005, he opened the first Jaho. He has returned every year and remained friends with a barista named Nami Kinoshita.

“Last year, Nami came and worked at Jaho for three months to learn about Jaho and our coffees and we started planning a location for when she went back home,” Mezini says. They looked for real estate, and recently found a dual-concept opportunity in the Nakameguro district. Half the space is a Plain People retail store, a hip, Japanese fashion and home goods brand.

It’s “an area in Tokyo known for boutique cafes, shops and restaurants. It’s right by the Meguro River, which in the spring is one of the most popular Hanami (cherry blossom-viewing) spots in the city,” Mezini says.

Joining forces with Plain People expedited the move-in process, he says, “and of course, expenses and rent for such a nice location.”

Jaho has a small, mostly local wholesale coffee business, though it does have a few accounts in Tokyo and Milan, Mezini says. Are more international locations in Jaho’s future? Mezini says he’d like to open elsewhere, and they will see how traffic is at the Tokyo shop to help guide further growth. The company is also in discussions with Boston-area and North Shore developers, he says, though he has no plans to confirm at this time.

In July, Mezini partnered with the city of Peabody to operate a café called the Coffee Experiment. The city provided nearly $50,000 in local funds, grant money, and in-kind donations of labor to build out a high-end, neighborhood coffee shop on Main Street, in hopes of reviving a desolate stretch of the downtown corridor, the Salem News reported. Jaho agreed to run it for six weeks, rent-free, and it’s now working with the city in hopes of finding a non-profit to take it over.

“The response from the community was really amazing while we were open,” Mezini says. “We will help the new operator with training and anything else they need. It’s a really cool project so we really want it to become a long term success.”

Jaho recently renovated its South End café, finishing the walls with fir and black walnut for a warmer atmosphere, building a banquette, and adding new furniture. The menu also got a refresh, with more sandwiches, like a Cubano with house-made pulled pork, as well as vegan and vegetarian options, like quinoa and black bean salad, veggie and hummus cups, and a melted “shrooms n Cheese” sandwich, with portobello and provolone on homemade focaccia. It also added gluten-free baked goods.

Jaho, which has long offered “slow bar” methods like siphon coffee and Chemex brewing, expanded those in the South End, and also installed four draft lines for nitro and cold brew coffees, as well as draft lattes and kombucha.

Jaho Coffee & Tea, 153-0042 1F 1-16-10 Aobadai, Meguro, Tokyo, 1651 Washington St., South End, Boston, 617-236-1680, and other locations, jaho.com.

Jaho Coffee Tokyo. / Photo provided

Jaho Coffee Tokyo. / Photo provided