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Jiaren Cafe Fills Void Left by City Lights Espresso

When Santa Clara’s City Lights Espresso closed at the end of 2018, Old Quad residents and visitors to Franklin Square began experiencing a void. Outside of a couple Starbucks locations near Santa Clara University, there weren’t many options close by to grab a quick cup of coffee or tea. A center for community gatherings was also lost, as Council Members, non-profit groups and locals would congregate at the cafe to discuss everything from current events to community activism.

As City Lights was closing, Jaden Zhao had only been operating the Jiaren Yoga Studio for a handful of months. Although Zhao had always hoped to include a small cafe as part of the nonprofit yoga studio, her main goal was to create community and not compete with local businesses. Because she knew there was a cafe steps away from her front door, Zhao backed away from the idea of a coffee shop and planned to only host juice and light snack bar for yogis to grab a quick drink before or after their class.

However, when City Lights closed, a new opportunity presented itself. After a handful of months spent planning and remodeling, Zhao opened the Jiaren Cafe at 1171 Homestead Rd., Suite 140 on Oct. 28 of last year.

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Jiaren Cafe serves local brands, including Ritual Coffee and pastries from Copenhagen Crown Bakery, in addition to Mizuba matcha drinks, teas and herbal tea blends rooted in Chinese medicine.

“We mainly do tea lattes, coffee lattes and herbal tea lattes with specialty Chinese traditional medicine formulations,” said Zhao. “For example, what we call turmeric latte, uses five or seven herbs from Chinese medicine … and we plan to expand our tea menu [to include more specialty drinks].”

Since its opening, Jiaren Cafe has quickly become a location of choice for locals to loiter or work, dignitaries grab a drink and groups like Reclaiming Our Downtown to hold meetings.

“The community has been great,” said Zhao. “It has been really, really supportive. I feel like they may not drink coffee, but they’re coming and supporting me, and I can feel that.”

Not only does Jiaren Cafe focus on coffees, teas, pastries and snacks, but the cafe also hosts latte art classes booked through Eventbrite and customers or organizations can rent the space for team building, private events and nonprofits.

In the near future, Zhao said she hopes to hold additional classes, meetings and professional development and personal growth workshops.

In addition to the new Jiaren Cafe, the Jiaren Yoga Studio has grown from offering only core, basics, yin, prenatal, power, flow, restorative, sculpt, Hatha and Vinyasa yoga classes to now include sound healing, Chinese medicine pulse readings, TaeKwonDo, yoga-pilates combination and kids yoga classes, as well as private acupuncture sessions.

As the cafe and studio continue to expand, the studio will be seeking additional instructors and baristas. Email jaden@jiarenyogastudio.com for additional information.

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