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Meet Jonathan Yang of Thank You Coffee in Chinatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Yang.

Jonathan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began in coffee when I was completing my degree in Structural Engineering at UC San Diego, and continued as I completed a Master’s of Divinity. I started at a little coffee shop on campus called Perks Coffee that happened to use great coffee and equipment in the middle of the campus bookstore and later moved on to Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. When I moved back to LA, I worked at Lamill for a bit before spending a majority of my coffee life and career at Cafe Dulce in Little Tokyo.

In my 11 years in specialty coffee, I’ve had the joy of serving customers and working with and for great people. As I’ve also found my own favorite coffee shops in LA and throughout the world, I’ve built a clear picture of what I love about coffee and coffee shops. That picture is Thank You Coffee.

The journey towards our actual coffee shop started over a bowl of fideo at Colonia Publica with our real estate agent and friend, Kenny Liu. I shared my dream, vision, and plan for the business with him to get his honest feedback, and he helped me consider how to even begin and has been a crucial part of our team since then. Along the way, I connected with my two partners Matt Chung and Cody Wang, who I knew from my previous church. Matt has a background in Mechanical Engineering and Cody is a Financial Analyst. As a team, we’re united in our vision but diverse enough to provide multiple points of view as we grow together.

As we searched for a physical location for what seemed like forever, Christine and Friedia from Paper Please reached out to us about operating a pop up in their retail space. They had popped up in a coffee shop before finding their own space, and we’re so grateful that they gave our coffee shop an opportunity to serve people in theirs. They’ve both been a tremendous help and encouragement as we’ve been navigating the waters of small business.

As we continue to serve LA, we also recently signed a lease for a space in Anaheim. Our dream to serve LA and OC is finally coming to fruition, and we’re so grateful for it all. At the heart of Thank You Coffee is an attitude of thankfulness that we hope shows in what we do, what we make and how we treat our guests.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It certainly hasn’t been the road we imagined. We never would have thought that our business would begin right before Covid-19 changed the world. We were challenged to consider what we valued and what we could do to continue to serve and care for the community we’d grown to love in such a short time. We decided that we wouldn’t just sit and wait but use our limited resources to serve others. We were determined to give as many free drinks as we could to the frontline workers that are working tireless, placing themselves at risk to care for us and save lives. It’s really pushed our little corner to the limits, but so far we’ve made and given out 450 bottles, and hope to provide more! We’re so thankful to have the opportunity to show appreciation in this way.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Earlier on when we met, my wife told me about a Korean fried chicken spot in Fullerton called Thank You Fried Chicken, and I thought that if I ever opened a coffee shop, I’d call it that! I wanted a name that was meaningful but also fun and lighthearted. It’s a reminder to ourselves that we have a lot to be grateful for. We’re hoping that’s the kind of environment we can create for our staff and guests.

In all we do, we hope to be kind, be great and be grateful. Our priority is to serve our customers with genuine kindness and care. As we do that, we strive to be the best at what we do, sourcing and serving our drinks with excellence and intention. In all of this, we’re thankful for each guest that decides to walk through our doors.

Basically, we make really good coffee, tea, and specialty beverages, and we strive to be excellent and tasteful in our sourcing and serving. We serve delicious coffee from our favorite roasters and tea from incredible people, and in both areas it’s important to us that they source their coffee and tea in a way that actually benefits and properly pays the farmers they’re sourcing from. If you’re a purist, you should get a pourover, espresso, or a cortado, cappuccino or latte if you need a little milk. Our specialty drinks are fun and tasty as well. Our home-roasted hojicha latte with oat milk is the best we’ve had. Our You’re Welcome latte is made with a lapsang souchong syrup (a smoked black tea from Fujian, China), chicory pecan bitters, espresso and oat milk, and it’s complex and yummy.

What were you like growing up?
I was a shy and quiet kid that grew up in Temple City, one of the lesser-known cities in the San Gabriel Valley. I’m one of a set of triplets raised by a single mother, so my brother, sister and I always had each other. This made for great Power Rangers reenactment because we had 3 of the 5. I was a nerdy kid that never really knew where I fit in, but I had good friends that appreciated me for who I was. In elementary school, I had hopes of being a gymnast which never came into fruition (the tree wells were always occupied). In middle and high school, I had dreams of being on the basketball team, but I really wasn’t that good and always a little too rough. I tried joining the break dancing club but couldn’t ever get my handstand down. I wanted to be a gangster but was too afraid of my mom, so I settled for the hairstyle and clothes. Hair: zero on the sides, super long top spiked up. Clothes; baggy black jeans, oversized belt, white hoodie, or red/blue flannel. Classic SGV. As I studied hard for my SAT’s, I listened to Tupac and Bone-Thugs (and a little Jay Chou) while sipping on my boba and snacking on popcorn chicken (or a $5 pizza from Little Caesars).

Pricing:

  • 12 oz Hojicha/Sweet/You’re Welcome Latte/ Iced Coffee (Flash Brew) – $6
  • 64 oz Hojicha/Sweet/You’re Welcome Latte/ Iced Coffee (Flash Brew) – $25
  • Delivery – Free to LA and OC as long as the Stay At Home Order is in place

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Team picture credit: Julia Denise Yang

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