(By: Kali Kotoski| Publication date 30 April 2015 | 15:48 ICT)
If you haven’t seen it already, cafés have stormed the capital as global and regional chains continue to line Phnom Penh’s streets, offering relief from the heat and the daily grind. While Joma is a relative newcomer to the local market, opening its first café last February, it is no stranger to premium organic coffee. Joma’s fair-trade beans come from the renowned forests of the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos, where, due to the fertile soil, high elevation, and cool temperatures, it yields some of the world’s most rare and distinctive flavors.
Soon after opening their first local branch on Norodom Boulevard, Joma successively rolled out two more locations, one in Toul Kork and the other by the Russian Market.
But as the competition grows while Cambodians and expats alike embrace a café lifestyle, what makes Joma stand out is more than just a good cup of coffee, explained CEO Jonathan Blair.
“What sets us apart is that we have a full bakery. Everything we do is in house, fresh, and made from scratch,” said Blair adding that many competitors can’t match Joma’s menu.
Even though each branch houses an industrial-size roaster that is fired up four to five times a week to ensure the freshest possible blend, the café also offers freshly baked loaves of bread, bagels, sandwiches, salads, wraps and other hot-food offerings, including a create-a-sandwich option that allows patrons to choose from an array of meat, cheese and bread.
Joma has a full menu of fresh homemade entrees. Following what Blair described as the typical tourist route, Joma’s origins date back to 1994 in Vientiane, Laos. After developing a strong and reputable brand name, in 2009 Joma began its march across the region, first setting up shop in Hanoi, Vietnam. Now, it has 12 branches spread out across Indochina.
Whereas Joma has successfully been able to amass a devote following of tourists traveling from city to city, Cambodia has proven to be a different market entirely, explained Blair.
In one year of operations, retail manager Por Lim, has seen a decisive switch in clientele.
“When we first launched 90 per cent of our customers were either westerners or Koreans,” said Lim.
“But in the last five months, more Cambodians have become familiar with Joma, and now make up 30 per cent of our regular customers,” he added.
CEO Jonathan Blair and Marketing Manager Por Lim pose with staff. With its three-storey loft-like space that offers impressive views and quiet corners to work, catch up on emails, hold business meetings or simply enjoy a great cup of coffee with friends, Joma is the perfect spot to relax.
Additionally, by being partnered with Hagar International, an organization committed to the recovery of individuals who have survived human rights abuse, two per cent of all revenue across Joma’s 12 branches is reinvested back into the local community through clean water, education, drug rehabilitation and environmental projects, explained Blair.
“One per cent of this money is used to employ people who come through [Hagar] programs. The other one per cent is used for grass roots initiatives looking to meet basic needs,” he said, explaining how this allows for Joma to be part of the local community.
“We want to compete on the product, and the service, but we also want to make a difference while we are at it,” he said.