Collaborators Jason Ridgel and Adarian Lherisson chat with each other about their partnership, the niche worlds of coffee and whiskey, and Black business ownership.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Mario Charles
Throughout February and March, we have honored the merge of coffee and spirits with online stories thanks to our celebrated friend Matt Foster, U.S. Coffee In Good Spirits champ and cover feature of our current issue. For this round of related spirits and cheer, we’re checking out a coffee-infused whiskey called The Collab: Prohibition Edition, a new product from the minds of Jason Ridgel (he/him) from Guidance Whiskey and Adarian Lherisson (he/him) of Javaé Coffee & Tea. Guidance Whiskey uses Javaé’s single-origin Haitian beans to add comforting caramel notes to their smooth smoke-barreled whiskey, and the collaboration is available now for pre-order. We spoke with the owners of both Javaé and Guidance to learn more about how their collaboration came to be, and why they’re excited to work together as Black business owners to offer this unique coffee whiskey.
Barista Magazine: Why did you seek out each other’s particular whiskey/coffee brands to work with?
Jason: We met organically at a Black-owned modern-day market named the Local Distro. Both of us had products there and began talking. I offered him a shot of Guidance and I tried some of his coffee, and we knew we would work together.
Adarian: We wanted to work with Guidance Whiskey because they represent the next generation of Black entrepreneurship in craft beverages. Much like Guidance Whiskey, Javaé has a mission to represent and empower the people who look like us. We really wanted to create a cultural bridge that speaks to our heritage and offers an exchange of ideas and traditions in the South. Growing up in the southern United States has shaped how I see commerce and the world. A focus on agriculture and commerce is not just the Haitian way, but it is also a Tennessee thing. We want to share our stories through the traditions of smooth Tennessee whiskey and the folklore of small-batch Haitian coffee. So we were very excited to collaborate with another Black-owned business.
And it means a lot to us to be a Black beverage provider. When we enter these spaces, we often find that Black companies simply are not represented. There is a bit of counter culture in that craft beverages are not targeting our demographic. It can often feel lonely and uncomfortable. We appreciate the ability to dispel this and prove that not only are we here, but we are damn good at coffee. And coffee is part of what we have done in our family for over 80 years.
Jason: To echo Adarian, it feels amazing to be a representative of my race and culture in an industry with a history of marginalizing minorities. Partnerships like ours are the epitome of uplifting Black-owned businesses. We use Guidance Whiskey’s platform to shine light on another Black-owned business in the community that people may not have known about, and our partner in turn is giving us exposure as well. Also, we’re able to showcase our collaborative talents, while highlighting the possibilities of Black businesses working together. It’s the only way we will survive.
Adarian: Agreed. Partnerships like these give us a unique opportunity to support one another and encourage our customer base to discover other Black-owned brands, as well as be an example to other brands.
Why coffee and whiskey? What’s distinctive about this particular coffee/whiskey flavor profile and pairing?
Adarian: Coffee and whiskey are both niche markets. The people who enjoy them do so with distinction and can appreciate the subtleties that come from a master blend. To know that they are produced and distributed by Black people is a bonus.
Jason: Plus, both coffee and whiskey have a uniquely similar history. Both have processes that have been passed down from generation to generation, as well as a heavy minority influence. A lot of these stories have never been told, and through the Guidance and Javaé collaboration, we’re able to tell our story. Guidance and Javaé pair so well together because both of our products focus on flavor. Javaé has a rich Haitian coffee influence, and when we paired it with Guidance for the Prohibition Edition, it gives you a smooth finish.
Adarian: The coffee and whiskey notes pair perfectly. We are very picky about what we pair with our Haitian coffee. The notes we selected were the oak and vanilla notes and the aromatics of the Guidance Whiskey. We chose to pair with the notes of charred cocoa and cherry in Javaé’s Haitian Rosé coffee. We did a custom over-roast to bring out the notes desired and then aged them in sealed casks until the custom blend was just right. We are sure that whiskey and coffee lovers will enjoy it alike.
Anything else you’d like the readers to know about Javaé and/or Guidance Whiskey before they snag a bottle of the Prohibition Edition?
Jason: Guidance Whiskey is committed to telling the story of minorities, artisans, and friends all over the world. We hope that this collaboration will inspire other brands to do the same.