Jo Snow Syrups haven’t made the big time yet, but there’s already a loyal following for Melissa Yen’s syrups. Yen, formerly of Vella Café, started making syrups as a way to beat the boredom and test her own palate, “There’s a danger in too much feedback [on flavors]. I ask people what they think, but I need to trust myself.”
There’s certainly no boredom with flavors like Hibiscus Basil Orange Blossom, Ginger Passion Fruit, and Café de Olla. I can personally attest to the awesomeness that is Fig Vanilla Black Pepper. I’ve been using it in everything from Diet Coke to pancakes since I found a bottle at the Downtown Farmstand.
If you find Yen at farmer’s markets this summer, you’ll also be able to enjoy limited-run syrups like Blueberry Cardamom, Beet Lime Mint, and Strawberry Basil Balsamic. These syrups will be a little more expensive than her core flavors, but that’s because they use so many fresh ingredients. Still, Yen hopes people will buy and integrate the syrups into their daily cooking and drink making. “I wanted to make something local and hand-made, but not precious. I want people to use it.”
Yen believes in making a quality product. For her flavored syrups, she starts with organic cane juice and then adds extracts and fruits depending on what’s in season and what tastes good. She tries to use what’s locally sourced or organic, but not if it means compromising on flavor. “I tried organic extracts, but they didn’t taste good, ” says Yen, “and the organic process expensive.” It’s important for her to keep prices for her product down so people will buy it. Especially since she’s competing against cheaper, mass-produced syrups.
For now, Yen is the sole cook, bottler, labeler, delivery service and PR force behind her product, but she already has plans to grow. “In five years I’d like have my own space, employees, and more product lines. I want to grow.” In the meantime, find Jo Snow in area stores and in Yen’s collaborative projects with Nice Cream, Rich Chocolates, and Ipsento.