Victoria Coffee Culture: Talking Trends and Coffee with 2% Jazz Owner, Sam Jones

By Julia Dilworth | Photo by Belle White

A visit to 2% Jazz should be a “syncopation” or “funky break” in people’s workdays, says owner, Sam Jones. Sam shares his experience finding his dream job in his coffeeshops and his trend forecast for 2020.

Like many students putting themselves through university, Sam Jones was working as much as he could: Sometimes three jobs at once, but always at least two, to avoid student loans.

Bitten by the coffee bug early on, one of his favourite gigs was running the outdoor coffee kiosk outside the Times Colonist building, so when it came up for sale, he bought it, even though he was still in school. 

“It was just a small little kiosk, but what I found was, I had bought myself my dream job,” says Jones. 

After seven years of post-secondary study, taking everything from cartography to biochemistry, he quit school to run the kiosk full time. 

“I never took any business courses,” says Jones. “Out of everything I did, I avoided the business sector as much as possible actually — I never wanted to be ‘The Man.’”

This kiosk was the start of 2% Jazz Coffee, which now includes two coffee shops and a brand of in-house coffee sold all over the Island. 

“I love working with people,” says Jones. “When I bought the business, I knew that my café had to be a place where people felt good.”

A visit to 2% Jazz should be a “syncopation” or “funky break” in people’s workdays, he says. 

The idea is to break people out of their regular habits, give them some great in-house roasted coffee, sourced from countries of origin; good service (that’s a must) and then they can continue on with their day with more of a bounce in their step. 

It’s a jazzy ethos that starts with the name — 2% Jazz — which comes from a Maceo Parker quote. Jones explains that Parker, “master of the funky saxophone,” calls his brand of music 2 per cent jazz, 98 per cent funky stuff.

“He always says that style of music is more about how the music makes you feel,” says Jones. “He believes firmly that if you have an ailment, say you have a sore elbow or a broken arm, you put it up against the speaker, let the music flow through and heal you with the vibrations.” 

Jones had to track Parker down by phone (this was before the age of the internet) to get his blessing. “I told him my plan about opening up a café that was more about having a good feeling, so everyone who walks in my door feels better just by being there,” says Jones. 

“I really took those cues from his style of music, his approach to life, and he agreed.” 

And when you walk into a 2% Jazz, that’s exactly how you feel. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, (we can overhear the barista ask if a customer would like their banana bread grilled) and, fittingly, Jones’ coffee shops play 2 per cent jazz, 98 per cent funky stuff.  

“We strive to be the people’s coffee shop, and we wanted to feel like everyone’s home,” says Jones. “We don’t want people to feel out of place; we want them to feel like they’re in a place they love to be.”  

Sam’s Trend Forecast

Follow the Leader

With globalization comes the formation of little tribes, with some kind of influencer at their head, explains Jones. “Uncoordinated coordination” is an emerging trend, with groups dressing outside of the norm. You can’t predict what the fashion trends are going to be, because they’ll be picked by the heads of these little fashion tribes, “telling their own stories and expressing themselves as independents,” he says. “And that really goes back to hip-hop culture, and it really brings high fashion to the streets. Fashion has really become mainstream. Like if you go to a place like the Four Horsemen, you’re going to see high-end fashion streetwear. Maybe cargo pants and Air Force 1s will never — and have never —gone out of fashion, and maybe they should never go out of fashion.” 

The Future is Healthy 

“I think people’s attitudes towards life and themselves are becoming a lot healthier … people treating themselves more healthily but also having a healthier outlook on life.” 

The Upside of Social Media

“People can be who they want to be so much more freely today. You can express yourself and project that in so many different ways through social media, more than you ever could before. I think people are really grabbing onto that fact and embracing that fact. That’s who they are, and to be able to push that out to the world is exciting.”

Endless Creativity

Thanks to the internet, people have so many more opportunities at their disposal to be creative, to express themselves through art of any kind, from drawing to photography to videography. “And we get to see all of this in real time. It perpetuates cultures, it enhances everyone’s daily life. You can see it anytime you want to. You couldn’t do that 10 years ago. We had to go to an art gallery.” 

Ownership and Empowerment

Jones says a big emerging trend is the empowered grower. “You have the power — you’re not being dependent on other means. People are taking their lives into their own hands, growing their own food or projecting their own fashions and their own cultural statements to the world. People are taking ownership of who they are.”  

Personal Drink of Choice

“My personal drink of choice is my first cup of coffee of the day. It’s not a specific type — it’s the first. I’ve been really into pourovers lately. I love taking coffee that we’re buying directly from the country of origin and drinking that in as clean a format and brew as we can.” 

This article is from the January/February 2020 issue of YAM.