Co-founders of Spiritus Coffee Jason Holman and Nick Bianco came together in May of 2020, to bring a new kind of coffee experience into the world. Like so many other companies, they’re interested in putting forth a great product — single-origin, ethically-sourced, locally-roasted coffee. But, they also realized that making and drinking coffee could also lend itself to creating a personal experience beyond the actual drink. One that turned an everyday routine into an intentional ritual. Let’s hear the story directly from one of the co-founders, Jason Holman (seated on the right).
Q: What does your personal journey with coffee look like? When did you start drinking coffee? Did you have someone that initially introduced you? Do you have a progression story (e.g., Folger’s to Starbucks to Intelligensia to … Spiritus Coffee)?
A: I started drinking coffee in 7th grade, I think. We’d hang out in a local restaurant and smoke cigarettes and drink coffee before school. Some of the teachers did the same thing – that café was like a safety zone — they never got us in trouble for it. It all started to change for me the more attention I paid to brewing methods. I learned that brewing has a huge impact on taste. I had a cup of a freshly-roasted Intelligentsia Ethiopian coffee brewed in a V60 that blew my mind. It was like wine; I never knew coffee could taste that way. I’ve been a coffee flavor chaser ever since.
Q: How did you meet and decide to start a business together?
A: Nick and I met in recovery circles years ago. He’s been sober about 15 years, and I met him about 8 or 9 years ago. We became friends right away, and we were both very committed to recovery and to helping others. He was a guy who was excited about life, and was always willing to take the time to help someone who was struggling. Spirituality and helping others is what recovery is all about, and Nick and I spent hours and hours hanging out, drinking coffee, talking about meditation, spirituality, and the guys that we were trying to help.
I’ve always worked in sales; a couple of cigar companies, then another coffee company, and now a rice producer located in Southern Illinois. The idea for Spiritus Coffee Company started on Nick’s back porch probably a year and half ago. Every time we got together, eventually the conversation would turn to starting a coffee company. It’s always been a dream. We were never able to shake it; it’s like the idea had a life of it’s own and things just started happening. We try to plan, but the whole endeavor really has had a natural, go with the flow feel to it.
Q: Did you know anything about roasting when you started? If not, what was your process for learning?
A: I didn’t. Nick had just purchased a small Fresh Roast machine and loved it. I ordered a small, hand-held, and roasted some on the stove. I’ve always been pretty obsessed with the coffee brewing process, and trying to dial in the perfect cup, while Nick got heavy into the roasting process and trying to dial in the perfect roast. We make a good team.
Q: Your focus on letting coffee be part of a journey of mindfulness/spirituality is very cool. What led you to that concept?
A: Well, I think a big part of it came from the influence of recovery principles that we both employ. We’ve both been practicing meditation for a while now, and before coffee, it’s what talked about much of the time. As we got further obsessed with coffee, we began incorporating it into our meditative practice. When we began discovering the world of taste, it developed even more, and we found we could be really present while brewing and having a cup. Brewing coffee and really tasting the nuance and subtle notes in it demand attention; it pulls you into the present and what you’re doing right here, right now. Like a lot of this, it just seemed to happen organically.
Q: When did you decide you would donate profits to organizations dedicated to mental health/addiction recovery?
A: That was something we both desired to do from the start. We wanted our company to have a positive local impact. We really hope that we’re able to help some people. We’ve both certainly struggled ourselves and received a lot of help; we just want to try to give back what was given us.
Q: What are some of your coffee rituals?
A: I’m a pre-dawn and late night guy. I love my time in the morning before the sun comes up when the world (and my house) is quiet. First thing in the morning, I open the container I store my beans in. I use a manual grinder, and can really smell the fragrance of the coffee. I measure, heat water, set up my V60, and carefully brew my first cup. I bring it into my office, and sip in a chair in the peace and quiet, noticing the aroma and flavors. Midway through the cup, I usually read for a short time and then meditate. When I leave my office afterwards, I’m awake, connected and fresh … at least for 20 minutes until my three-year-old wakes up.
Q: Currently, what is your favorite Spiritus coffee?
A: Definitely our Indonesian Sulawesi — which will be available as a very limited-time offering soon!
Q: Do you have a favorite method of brewing?
A: Definitely V60.
Q: If there was one thing you want people to take away from this interview, what would it be?
A: We can get so consumed with “doing” and can completely disregard “being.” When we take the time to disconnect with the chaos, and connect with something greater, it changes us. Over time, it can change us on a very deep level … we can bring that change into everything we do, and every interaction we have. It can literally transform the world we live in. Coffee can be magical, it can be a sacrament and a ritual; it can wake us up on a whole different level. The ancient Sufi monks knew it a long, long time ago. There really is a Spirit of Coffee that’s worth tapping into.