Benji Lee owns The Saint Bar & Lounge, an iconic dive bar and tiki joint in New Orleans and is the guitarist for Supagroup. This Summer Benji has been building out HiVOLT Coffee in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. We love New Orleans. Perhaps the greatest city in America, it’s a city that feels like it’s in a country of its own. HiVOLT will be showcasing Counter Culture Coffee when it opens early this month.
We reached out to Benji and asked him to tell us more about HiVOLT.
As told by Benjamin Lee. Photography by Andrew Stubbs & Alexey Sergeev.
Can you tell us a bit about your new space?
HiVOLT is in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans in a space that has been vacant for over 25 years. It’s a neighborhood full of restaurants, antique shops, boutiques, nightclubs and lots of foot traffic. It’s a little corner building that has oval windows resembling an old ship (it used to be a seafood restaurant). Lots of natural light through the portholes creates a really nice ambiance in the mornings and in the afternoons. It’s also two blocks away on the same street as my other place, The Saint Bar & Lounge where we do the opposite of get people up and ready to tackle the day. I’m not alone in thinking it’s one of the cooler buildings in a city full of cool buildings and I’m still pinching myself that we’re actually opening a shop there. We’re really trying hard not to screw it up.
What’s your approach to serving coffee?
I’ve been in the bar industry for about 12 years and likewise our approach is to run it like a bar. We value speed, consistency and quality, but also an emphasis on being the “neighborhood spot.” Our staff is very customer friendly. No one likes a snotty barista, no matter how good the coffee is, especially in New Orleans, where we’re dealing with hangovers in the morning. People should feel like it’s their special place when they come in and we want to be making their daily drink before they even get to the register. All our coffee will be exclusively Counter Culture and we’ll rotate out which lots we use according to seasonal availabilities. Our breakfast and lunch fare will be simple and made from scratch with an emphasis on health consciousness, except for the giant slabs of butter on our fresh baked bread. Also the Poached egg over sautéed Kale with beef debris and homemade ricotta on ciabatta, that ain’t healthy.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We have a five station pour over bar with a countersunk drain pan. We also have the big ass Oji cold water drip straight from Japan. Some other items include a Daiquiri machine for our frozen coffees (not the Granita maker), an Ecoboiler, a couple Fetcos for the old timers, and a powder white La Marzocco 2 group GB5 AV.
Visit HiVolt early this month at 1829 Sophie Wright Place NOLA 70130.