Founded by husband and wife team, Billy and Chasidy Atchison, along with their friend, Sebastian Kegel, Banjo Coffee originated at a small farmer’s market on the east side of Atlanta. You may already be familiar with Banjo Cold Brew (the brand), and perhaps have seen various bottled cold brew cans for sale at your local Kroger, one of many of the local Atlanta farmers markets, or Whole Foods.
The focus of this blog is on local and independent Atlanta coffee shops, so the majority of the content below is from the physical storefront of Banjo Coffee (i.e., Banjo Coffee Shop) in Avondale Estates. However, in doing research for this post, it was very interesting to learn how the coffee shop came to be from the Banjo Cold Brew brand (the details are in part 4 of this post). In a word: community.
This post is organized into five parts (click on the parts below to be taken to the respective section)
Brief Story of how Banjo Coffee was founded (and a brief explainer of Banjo Coffee—the coffee shop—vs. Banjo Cold Brew—the brand)
1. Interior and Exterior Views
Banjo Coffee is located in a brick building at 38B North Avondale Road, Avondale Estates, GA 30002; the neighboring business is The Beer Growler, with whom Banjo Coffee shares the parking lot. The exterior of the shop features a cozy outdoor patio; furry friends are welcome here.
The interior of Banjo Coffee has about six high-top tables (comfortable for one to two people), as well as larger communal tables where you can spread out with your books/computers. The coffee shop features plenty of window light and is bright and cheery inside.
2. The Menu at Banjo Coffee
The menu at Banjo Coffee is fairly extensive, and at the time of this visit, was eight pages long. The options include drinks on tap, espresso bar, featured drinks, beer and wine options, food, and catering. Banjo Coffee is partnered with Café Campesino out of Americus, GA for its supply of coffee beans, which go into the espresso drinks at the shop as well as into the cold brew beverages available throughout the Southeast.
Some highlights of the menu at Banjo Coffee Shop are provided below.
There are six options on the tap menu at Banjo Coffee:
Nitro Coffee (original) and Coco Loco brewed nitro (with cacao nibs & vanilla)
Cold Brew (original) and Bourbon Barrel-Aged cold brew
“Hot Fuzz Soda” (with peach, jalapeño, and agave) cold brewed tea and Hibiscus sour cold brewed tea
The traditional coffee drinks at the Banjo Coffee Shop (drip coffee, cortado, cappuccino, americano, latte, etc.) are complemented by lavender honey latte and the bourbon vanilla latte. Prices range from $2.75 for a double espresso shot to $5.50 for the large size of the latter two latte options. Rounding out the espresso bar options are chai latte, matcha latte, and hot chocolate. Banjo Coffee has an assortment of housemade syrups which may be added to the drinks for $1, including chocolate, caramel, lavender honey, bourbon vanilla, and strawberry. For the non-dairy drinkers, Banjo Coffee also offers almond milk or oat milk (Banjo Coffee offers the Oatly brand) substitutions for $1.
The featured drinks at Banjo Coffee are seasonal, and at the time of the visit, were focused on refreshing summer options. These included:
Wide-Eyed Mule (espresso, ginger beer, lime juice)
Strawberry Matchito (matcha green tea, strawberry, mint, and sparking water)—see photos below.
Tonic Youth (espresso, tonic, vanilla syrup, ginger lemon bitters)
CBD Hibiscus Tea (hibiscus, lime, organic cane sugar, and 15mg CBD)
Third Eye (matcha green tea powder, almond milk, espresso)
The seasonal featured drinks were $5.75 each, with the exception of CBD Hibiscus Tea, priced at $5.95. Check the Banjo Coffee’s website for updates to the seasonal drinks menu.
Beer and Wine
The following beer and wine options were on the menu at Banjo Coffee:
Arches Southern Bel
Atlanta Brewing Co. Homestand
Sand Point Chardonnay
Zaccagnini Montepulciano D’abruzzo
Archer Roose Rosé
Arche Roose Prosecco
The majority of food options at Banjo Coffee are focused on small/fast items, such as the avocado bagel, B.E.C. (bacon, egg, and cheddar) bagel, avocado toast, strawberry market toast, black forest ham sandwich, turkey sandwich, and chicken salad. The coffee shop serves breakfast until 11AM, while lunch is served from 11AM to 2PM.
Banjo Coffee offers several items as part of its catering menu. Hot boxes of coffee (96oz) are available for $19.95, 32oz growlers (cold brew coffee, hibiscus tea, or anything else on tap) are priced at $10, and 4-pack of nitro cans are available for purchase at $10.95. You can also rent Banjo Coffee’s nitro coffee cart (inquire with Banjo Coffee for details).
One of the highlights of this ACS visit to Banjo Coffee was sampling some of the seasonal drinks. I opted for the strawberry matchito—made with matcha green tea, strawberry, ming, and sparkling water (from another Atlanta local partner, Montane). All of the featured summer drinks at Banjo Coffee are thoughtfully prepared and are very refreshing—especially in this summer heat that we have been experiencing lately!
One of the core values espoused in this blog is highlighting local and independent coffee shops, and this effort is further demonstrated when learning about how a local coffee shop partners with local and independent businesses or brands. For Banjo Coffee, local partnerships are at the root of their DNA, and they partner with about a dozen local businesses. As of this writing, these partnerships include:
Café Campesino (both for espresso and cold brew)
Montane Sparkling Water (used in the strawberry matchito drink pictured above)
Motherhood Unstressed (for the CBD used in some of the featured drinks, such as the CBD hibiscus tea)
Pearson Farm Peaches
Various local Atlanta Farmers Market vendors
The Banjo Coffee Story
For the back-story of how the brick and mortar Banjo Coffee came to be, it helps to understand the trajectory of the coffee shop co-founders, husband and wife team, Billy and Chasidy Atchison. For this part of the post, I highly recommend hearing Billy and Chasidy’s story on The Atlanta Foodcast (it’s a fifty minute podcast interview). It’s well worth the listen—especially if you love podcasts, food, and the entrepreneurial spirit. My brief summary is provided below…
Billy and Chasidy grew up in the South (Alabama) and met in college at the University of Montevallo in Alabama, about thirty minutes south of Birmingham (Billy’s joke is: “We didn’t even hear of Montevallo until our junior year of college.”). After college, they ended up in Chicago, where they lamented the brutal Chicago winters. On the plus side, they lived near the founding location of Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee, which is perhaps where they became discerning coffee drinkers/enthusiasts.
Deciding to part with the harsh Chicago winters, Billy and Chasidy soon moved to Los Angeles, CA (specifically: Silver Lake), where they once again lived near an Intelligentsia Coffee location. Sensing a trend here?
With yet another move to Atlanta from Los Angeles, Billy and Chasidy still were trying to figure out their roots. It was during a visit to Portland, OR in 2012 where they had a chance to sample some of the cold brews from Stumptown Coffee where a revelation occurred (Billy says on the podcast: “I didn’t know coffee could taste this way.”)
Billy and Chasidy had cold brew on their mind when they returned to Atlanta. Operating out of a shared kitchen space, the experimentation for creating cold brew began. During this experimentation phase, Billy was also training for an ultra-marathon and sipping on cold brew every morning was a way to get an extra energy boost.
The entrepreneurial couple decided that cold brew was their way forward in Atlanta. They knew that they wanted to make a ready-to-drink product—with no need to add water, etc. After much experimentation, Banjo Cold Brew (the brand) began in 2015 at one farmer’s market in Atlanta, where the couple recount making $70 in sales on the first day. With the launch of 32oz bottles of cold brew several months later, Banjo soon found themselves in partnership with The Oakhurst Market and The Mercantile (now closed).
The hustling didn’t stop for two years—in the first year, Billy and Chasidy rotated through seven local Atlanta farmers markets; in the second year, with a little bit of help, they made it through 12 Atlanta farmers markets.
It was in January 2017, by somewhat serendipitous circumstances, that the physical storefront (Banjo Coffee—the subject of this post) was born. Billy and Chasidy were in the Avondale Estates neighborhood when they learned that the owner of Urban Grounds, a staple in the community for some 13 years, was thinking of selling the place. Billy and Chasidy didn’t take long to decide to make an offer. And hence, the physical coffee shop—Banjo Coffee—came to be. It’s been a wonderful part of the Avondale Estates community since then. So the path to opening a local coffee shop wasn’t straightforward for Billy and Chasidy, but in a way, it was destined to be. As Atlanta Coffee Shops profiles more and more of these local stories, it’s becoming apparent that there isn’t a standard or traditional way coffee shops begin their operations. For example, Billy and Chasidy’s story of opening up Banjo Coffee is reminiscent (albeit in a different way) of Brother Moto, which was an evolution of a coffee shop from something else.
If you want more details about Billy and Chasidy’s story, listen to The Atlanta Foodcast episode.
Q&A With the Banjo Coffee Founders
Following is a Q&A conducted by Atlanta Coffee Shops with the Banjo Coffee co-founders, husband and wife team, Billy and Chasidy Atchison. The back-story above frames the origin of Banjo Cold Brew and Banjo Coffee (the coffee shop), which is also reiterated in the Q&A.
Q: How did the name Banjo Coffee come about? Is there someone in the family that's a banjo player?
A: Long ago, Billy got a joke tattoo of a banjo (instrument) on his knee because you know…we’re from Alabama. So, when we started thinking about the cold brew business around the kitchen table, we really wanted it to create a specialty coffee brand that was warm and enjoyable – like talking to family around a kitchen table or playing music around a fire. We came up with lots of brand names, but Banjo was the one that felt like home base for us and the tattoo was a constant reminder to not take it all too seriously.
Q: Can you comment on the banjo make/model and significance of the banjo that's hanging on the wall inside the shop?
A: [Chasidy]: It was my mother’s, and she and Billy used to strum it, and pick a little… It’s a Fender, newer model but there’s little pieces of our family history throughout the shop that remind us of our roots.
Q: Banjo is one of the very few independent coffee shops in Atlanta that's partnered with Café Campesino in Americus, GA. How/when did this partnership begin, and what has it been like through the years? [Per this article, the partnership began in 2015, just want to confirm the details, and if there's anything else you'd like to add]
A: Yes, the partnership started in 2015 when we met Bill Harris at Coffee Fest Atlanta. Ethical sourcing and direct, real relationships to farmers was a key goal of our foundation and working with Café Campesino allows us to be a part of those relationships. They have been authentically and directly working with 10 specific farmer coops throughout the past 20 years. They have become friends with the farmers, watched kids grow up, helped build schools, helped build bridges... more than just purchasing and supplying. Café Campesino was also the first organic, fair trade roaster in Georgia, and they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Billy just got back from visiting our Guatemalan farms with Café Campesino and was able to finally connect us directly, which is going to be an even more vital role in the next several years.
Q: What's been your process for developing / featuring some specialty drinks inside the coffee shop? For example, the bourbon vanilla latte, strawberry matchito, tonic youth, etc.?
A: We like to be inspired by the seasons and using other local products. Mocktails are fun to play with, and sometimes it’s just something simple and familiar with a new twist. For instance, muscadines are now in season, and while it’s a process, we love to use those for our Muscadine Soda with ginger and agave, and it tastes like one of the best, non-processed grape sodas. It takes a good bit of time and effort to make, but they’re only in season for a month or so, so we jump on it! For the hibiscus tea, which has become a regular on the menu, we were inspired by taco stands in LA with their super sweet Jamaica drinks. We wanted to make a version of that using local hibiscus and run it on nitro. It’s all a lot of trial and error but it’s one of the more fun and creative outlets of our business. Also, we get bored drinking the same stuff, so experimenting is just part of the DNA of the company.
Q: In addition to Café Campesino, you have almost a dozen partnerships with food and drink vendors at the moment (1821 Bitters, Arden's Gardens, Emerald City Bagels, Ratio Bakery, Xocolatl Chocolate, Montane Sparkling Water). Can you pick one or two of these partners and explain how you decided to partner with them?
A: The coffee shop is an extension of our farmers market and local food roots. We work with companies that we have bought from personally, vended next too, and loved over the years. There are so many talented companies/farmers/makers right here in Georgia and we want to showcase them whenever we can! Pine Street was always our go to for local meats… Xocolatl is just the best chocolate producers around, and they source their cacao directly. The hard part is narrowing it down.
Q: Banjo Cold Brew recently announced they have launched their nitro cold brew cans into Whole Foods for the entire South region. How important was this initiative for your brand?
A: This is pretty big for us. Our bottles have been available at the Georgia Whole Foods for a few years, but the change to cans played a key component. Switching allowed us to have a longer shelf life and more approachability, while significantly reducing costs and pricing. Moving to regional was one of our primary goals in the beginning, and now that we are here, we began the journey of maintaining it! We have a lot of supporters, friends and family around the south, so it’s great they don’t have to wait on us to visit before they can get their coffee now.
Q: For those people just learning about Banjo Coffee and Banjo Cold Brew, can you provide a brief explainer on how you are differentiating Banjo Coffee Shop and Banjo Cold Brew (the brand)?
A: Banjo Coffee shop is the place you can engage with the company every day of the week in Avondale Estates. We offer a variety of cold brew options on tap, as you could imagine, as well as, hot coffee, espresso drinks, and breakfast/lunch. Banjo Cold Brew is based in our cold brew brewery a couple blocks down from the coffee shop. We serve the rest of the coffee sphere out of there, including: packaged wholesale, farmers markets, events, catering, and local office delivery.
Q: Is the Banjo Cold Brew a much more significant portion of the business now and the coffee shop is sort of secondary for people who are looking for a space to study/read and consume some coffee?
A: Both sides of the company are important to us. One connects us to a local community and one certainly has a broader reach, but really one flows into the other on a daily basis. Right now the cold brew side is more significant primarily because it’s 98º outside, and truth be told, while BCB was our initial approach, at a certain point in the year, when it does get cold and there are no events or markets, and cold brew coffee is the last thing on people’s mind, we have our “winter survival plan” aka the café. While that’s part in jest, it is how we survived the last 2 winters while we were building our brand. As we grow regionally, we now have to figure out ways to support the accounts out of state, so we will see how that develops over the next year(s)—whether through a similar approach, or something local that people can physically touch.
Q: Does Banjo Coffee Shop have any recurring events hosted in its location at Avondale Estates? If so, what are they?
Q: What's been the most interesting and/or exciting part of your journey so far in operating a local coffee shop?
A: Being part of a community is awesome! The support is unreal, and for the first time, we feel as though we have planted roots both professionally and personally.
Q: What are some of the challenges you are currently undergoing with the coffee shop and/or Banjo Cold Brew (the brand)?
A: Where to start! One of the main challenges is that Billy and I have a lot of ideas that we want to realize, but we run out of time and money too often to do them all. We are growing organically, so that comes with the reality that we just can’t do everything. Plus, we have to value our family time and juggling time, kids, school/activities and home life balance is tough.
Q: Is there anything else that hasn't been asked in this Q&A or widely reported in the past about Banjo Coffee that you would like the general public and/or coffee enthusiasts to know?
A: We just want to say a genuine “thank you” to our loyal fans and to those who support us. We don’t have a big marketing budget, so our growth is largely due to one person telling another person to try it! It has helped tremendously, and Atlanta has proven to be one of the best places for local love.
Banjo Coffee in Avondale Estates is a cool coffee shop with Southern charm in the Avondale Estates part of Atlanta. The founding couple—Billy and Chasidy Atchison—have done a superior job of cultivating great relationships with local vendors, as well as sourcing sustainable, fair-trade coffee in partnership with Café Campesino. The coffee shop offers a diverse selection of traditional coffee options, and of course, has nitro and cold brew on tap.
The coffee shop’s history is very interesting in its founding—build a brand first, and then use the physical store to bring further awareness to the offerings as well as to engage with the local community. Banjo Coffee is a wonderful testament to the local and independent coffee scene in the Atlanta area. Like the banjo located inside the coffee shop, Banjo Coffee Company is a multi-string operation: nitro and cold brew cans, the coffee shop, mobile carts at events, keg delivery, and more.
Stop by Banjo Coffee at Avondale Estates to try out some of their coffee, cold brew, or any of the seasonal beverages; or, support the company by buying its cold brew products at your local Kroger, Whole Foods, or at select Atlanta farmers markets (Grant Park Farmers Market, Piedmont Park Green Market, and Brookhaven Farmers Market).
Editor’s note: special thanks to Olivia, the barista at Banjo Coffee for coordinating the ACS visit and preparing some of the drinks seen in the photos above. Thank you to Billy and Chasidy for the responses in the Q&A.