As I made the short trek to JoJo’s Coffee & Tea, a recently opened coffee shop on the corner of Park and Chapel streets, I wondered: Does the Yale campus really have room for another coffee shop? With Koffee Too (fine … The Publick Cup), Starbucks and the Thain Family Cafe either on or just a few steps from campus, is anyone really going to go the extra block for a java jolt?
With a bright, open atmosphere and an affordable menu, JoJo’s makes it worth the walk. JoJo’s large windows and bright yellow walls make for an immediately friendly environment. The upbeat playlist, featuring classics like “Sweet Home Alabama,” contrasts sharply with the grunge-indie style of Starbucks and its knockoffs. All around, it’s a pleasant place to be.
There are plenty of two- and three-seat tables around the walls. With free wireless, JoJo’s could easily be a pleasant place to sit and work — though the seats are not the most comfortable, and there is a lack of cushy furniture.
Even the menu is fun. JoJo’s offers standard fare, with coffee, hot drinks, blended and cold beverages and an incredible tea selection. Coffee lovers won’t miss their lattes, espressos, cappucinos or mochas, but JoJo’s adds something new, offering up smoothies, bubble teas and flavor additions across the board (think a pumpkin spice latte).
The tea lover in particular will find a home at JoJo’s. They offer 11 types of both black and green teas and a selection of bubble and oolong teas. The employees definitely know their way around the menu. When asked for a preference on oolong teas, they’re happy to take you through a crash course in each variety, explaining its origins and its qualities. I personally enjoyed the “Big Red Robe,” their final recommendation.
The cashier assured me their baked goods are made fresh at their Hartford location every day. Of note is the granola bar — a granola and fruit cake sold for $1.95. The chocolate chip cookie, also $1.95, is pretty good. Bagels, Rice Krispies treats, scones and fresh fruit are also for sale. But overall, the food selection doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation.
The prices here, though not dirt cheap, are a pleasant surprise for the average Starbucks-goer. A 24 oz. iced coffee is $2.75. A 16 oz. tea is $2. Frozen drinks are a little pricier, with 24 oz. smoothies going for $4.95 and iced lattes for $4.50.
The service is incredible. Having opened only two weeks ago, there aren’t yet any lines. I have never had an iced drink blended for me so quickly. The man who made it came over several times to make sure I enjoyed it. Used to the lines and the anonymity of Starbucks, I was taken aback both by the speed and the personal touch.
This, more than anything, sets JoJo’s apart. It might even be a plus that JoJo’s is a little removed from the hub of campus: It keeps the crowds down and the personality of the place more vibrant. I’m looking for a coffee shop with service and identity, not a carbon copy chain. JoJo’s certainly puts in the extra effort to keep the personality vibrant, and I certainly see myself putting in the extra effort to get myself here.