Review: Jaho Coffee & Tea

A slow-life beverage chem lab opens in the South End
By ARIEL SHEARER  |  June 15, 2011

Jaho Coffee & Tea - On the Cheap

Anil Mezini started his first café at age 21, and about a month ago opened his third in Boston's South End, the only Jaho Coffee & Tea outside his "new-age" hometown of Salem. Jaho is dedicated to slow living and slow brewing, but the haughty morning attitude of Boston commuters rushing for a cup may challenge this shop's efforts to make caffeine consumption relaxing.

Mezini looks more like a scientist than a barista as he prepares coffee with exotic tools and techniques he discovered travelling in Europe and Asia. Tell him you want your coffee brewed pour-over, press, siphon, or Chemex-style, and witness the art of beverage chemistry. Observe the application of high-tech scales and transfer of liquid through elaborate tubing. If you don't have time to entertain the sight of a casual trickle, Jaho serves a fast hot brew ($1.49/small; $1.79/medium; $1.89/large) and iced coffee ($1.90/$2.40/$2.90) made with crushed ice that seems to melt slower than cubes. As for cream and sugar, you're on your own at the self-stir counter.

Hot or iced espresso starts at $2.20 for regular, with no flavor more than $5 (maple soy latte is $3.95/$4.50/$4.95). Jaho's take on the Coolatta manifests as "frosticcinos" ($3.80/$4.30/$4.80), made with coffee or "crème," in flavors like mocha or mint chocolate chip, green-tea matcha mist, and red velvet. They serve loose leaf teas like Mighty Leaf Tea ($2.50) and Zodiac Tea ($3.75), and sell some of those crazy brewing tools, too.

Jaho's spread of Italian sandwiches ($8.50) and salads ($7 for summer fresh, $8.50 for caprese) is impressive for any coffee-centric café. Foccacia bread is baked in-house following a recipe from Mezini's father, and is used on all sandwiches (sub for whole wheat). "La'Chicken Salad" is a staple, and a heavy hand for mayo may rob the sweet and crispy red grapes, walnuts, Havarti, and lettuce of their well-planned communal flavor — but I did eat the second half of my sandwich upside-down, to get the salty crumble topping the foccacia hitting a bulls-eye on my taste buds.

Up front, display cases are filled with rows of glowing pastries that stare you in the face as you fight to keep eye contact with whoever's taking your order. The chocolate-peanut-butter stack ($4.95) is a confused pie, made with layers of nougat, chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel. You're assaulted by a different flavor with each new bite.

Written in playful text above Jaho's extensive drink menu is a coffee promise: "Black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love." It's a slogan fit for convincing edgy Boston coffee enthusiasts to stop in and flip off established café chains that promise speed and not much else. Any small business you can patronize for high-test coffee and behind-the-counter spectacle while saying "Fuck the man" is truly sweet as love.

Jaho Coffee & Tea, located at 1651 Washington Street in Boston, is open daily, 6:30 am–7:30 pm. Call 617.236.1680.

Related: On the Cheap: iYO Cafe, Review: Strega Waterfront, Review: Geoffrey's Café, More more >
  Topics: On The Cheap , Boston, Coffee, Tea,  More more >
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