And harder still for The Jam Coffee House, which has everything but a biblical plague going against it as a location. Situated in a nondescript strip mall right off one of the city's busiest intersections, 12th Avenue South and Wedgewood, it's invisible from one direction and unreachable from the other in heavy traffic. It has little signage to speak of, and its turn-off comes almost immediately once you've passed the shop on the corner selling discount smokes and Hunt Brothers Pizza.
But the place rewards the extra effort that patrons are already making. In fact, it's a measure of how cozy this family-run coffee and tea shop is that you quickly forget the world outside its barred windows — a feature perhaps no other Nashville coffee house can claim.
Inside, you'll find a selection of some 50 different teas from Art of Tea in jars neatly lining the narrow counter. Almost all can be made into milky tea sweetened with agave (to which bubble-tea pearls can be added). As for the coffee, it comes from a roaster in Joelton, and the coffee drinks are made with as few syrups as possible. The Jam serves lunch paninis, and each day features a sandwich special as well as a hot item ranging from soup to vegetable tacos. On the day we went, selections included a Mama Mia Panini (chicken, bacon, Dubliner cheese on bruschetta) and a chicken asparagus soup with zucchini and portobello. Sandwiches all ran in the $6.50-$7.25 range.
But it was a cold, ragged day, and more than anything we were in the mood for chai tea. We sat by the orange countertop, and as co-owner Diana Newton prepared the aromatic drink — not poured from a concentrate, we were happy to see — Sarah Vaughan came over the speakers singing "Someone to Watch Over Me." When the tea arrived, it gave off wisps of cardamom-scented steam. Despite the spicy kick, the first sip felt like an ingested lullaby.
The warmth of the company had a lot to do with it. On the day we were there, Diana and her daughters (and co-owners) Maile and Bethany lavished care on customers, offering everything from tips on which teas to order — they sealed the deal on the chai — to comments on the songs playing overhead. Maile says the Newtons had "talked about doing business together for a long time," and when she helped move a friend's salon into the strip mall, she saw the "For Rent" sign and got inspired.
On Saturdays, The Jam offers live music from 5 to 7 p.m., and it may host art showings from time to time. And by spring, The Jam should have its patio ready. It may not have the greatest view, but then again, there's something to be said for a quiet vantage point to watch the rest of the world rush past.
UPDATE, 11:36 a.m. 3/14: The Jam is at 1210 Wedgewood Ave. We had the wrong hours listed for Saturdays: The correct hours are 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday.