Panama Tea and Coffee House
The Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House is much more than a cafe. From it’s opening in 2001, the Tea & Coffee House was designed by owner Jan Johnson to be a learning gateway to the history of the building, neighborhood and community. Jan understood the best way to create an educational experience was for the public to be exposed and enriched by the history.
“While standing in line for a coffee, tea or lunch, one could learn something”, owner Johnson shared, and register in the guest book where hundreds have entered their contact information often, including a drawing or sharing a memory from their stay at the Hotel over the years. Notes about a loved one who served in the 442nd Infantry Regiment during World War II are also featured. The guest book alone (featured in The Panama Hotel Legacy Film) conveys stories that resonate today.
The interior of the Tea and Coffee House has been beautifully preserved. Original wood floors and wall paper from 1910 have been retained, and pillow coverings for comfy chairs were made from fabrics used as curtains in the Hotel. There are over a dozen photographs on the wall capturing the daily lives of families in Japantown. Many visitors recognized ancestors in the photographs and have signed or made a note about who appears in a particular image. Many other artifacts are in front window displays along with newspaper clippings and other objects that convey memories from years ago.
While waiting in line to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with pastry or panini sandwich, virtually every glance around the room transports us back to another time and place.