Coffee from different areas of the world sits out on a counter at Mad Priest Coffe, which aims not only to produce the best coffee, but also educate customers about roasting techniques and different cultures.

Grand (re)opening schedule

Thursday, June 27

Time: 7-11 p.m.

Place: Broad Street Espresso Bar, 1900 Broad St.

Features: Zero-waste latte art throwdown, flower truck, beer

Friday-Saturday, June 28-29

Time: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Place: Broad Street Espresso Bar, 1900 Broad St.

Features: Free drip coffee from 7-10 a.m., discounts on retail coffee and merch

Sunday, June 30

Time: 2-6 p.m.

Place: Wilcox Coffee Roastery, 3399 Wilcox Blvd.

Features: Free beer and cold brew coffee, music, food trucks, kid’s games, roastery tours

For more information, visit

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Tarig, a Sudanese refugee and production manager at Mad Priest Coffee, works behind the counter at the original espresso bar on Broad Street. Mad Priest Coffee is opening another location on Wilcox Boulevard.

Mad Priest Coffee Roasters was recently named runner-up in Tennessee for "The Best Coffee in Every State" by Food & Wine magazine. But that's not founders Michael and Cherita Rice's only reason to celebrate.

Michael Rice's shared new venture, The Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails, is the first bar in Chattanooga to be nearly zero waste and 100% compostable. The Cherry Street lounge is also in the process to become one of a few dozen Chattanooga businesses to hold green|light certification, a third-party corporate sustainability designation.

Additionally, Mad Priest Coffee Roasters is celebrating a new roastery and production facility on Wilcox Boulevard and the recent renovation of its Broad Street espresso bar.

In honor of this, the two locations are hosting a series of special events June 27-30. Included is a zero-waste latte art "throwdown" on Thursday, free drip coffee on Friday and Saturday morning, and an open house block party on Sunday offering free beer and coffee, music, food trucks, and more.

With multiple coffee awards and Specialty Coffee Association roasting and buying certifications, the first part of the business's mission — "Craft excellent coffee. Educate the curious. Champion the displaced." — speaks for itself. But it's the other two arms that drive the day-to-day.

Inspiration for the brand comes from the 1844 novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas. Wrongly imprisoned for treason, the hero, Edmond Dantès, is ultimately saved from despair by the "Mad Priest," who helps him find a reason to hope again and gives him the means to further his life and others'.

The Rices aspire for their brand to represent those values as well.

"So the Mad Priest is a fictional character that embodies the fight for justice, freedom, and opportunity," the company's website states. "And as a company, we are striving to do just that. But instead of wrongly-accused fictional Frenchmen, we champion real-life people displaced by war, disaster, and tragedy."

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Michael Rice, owner of Mad Priest Coffee and Mad Priest Events, hosts special events to allow Chattanoogans to immerse themselves in different cultural experiences, from rituals to traditional cuisine.

They aim to help educate others in two areas: how coffee is made, and shedding light on the humanitarian and refugee crises around the world.

When it comes to coffee, they said they love sharing how the process works and they and their staff are happy to answer questions from customers. However, they are more eager to share the struggles from places where coffee-making begins.

Having visited many of the coffee growing regions of the world, the Rices have witnessed the conflict and displacement common in such areas. It can be hard to connect with these issues and people without going to those countries, they said, so The Mad Priest's mission involves sharing specific stories of pain and hope from the front lines of war, refugee camps and those lucky enough to start over in a new country.

The Mad Priest partners with Chattanooga nonprofit Bridge Refugee Services to work with refugees resettled in this area. The Rices have hired two at their roastery so far, training them in speaking English, customer service and other skills.

The focus on education isn't one-sided — they said they also want to cultivate culture and celebrate diversity in Chattanooga on a larger scale. Soon after opening their roastery, they started hosting cultural events where people can experience different parts of the world by learning about a highlighted country's rituals, tasting authentic cuisine and listening to traditional music. The events happen at least once or twice a month, with information provided via the business's Facebook page.

Email Elsie Corbett at