A few years ago, longtime pals and food-and-bev folks Michael Claisse and Brooks Reitz were sipping glasses of cold, sweet Vietnamese coffee at Phuong Vietnamese Restaurant in North Charleston when inspiration struck. Using local ingredients, they’d make, bottle, and sell their own version of the stuff. They liked the idea of putting a Charleston spin on a global flavor and bet consumers would dig a ready-made coffee drink—something to “just grab and go,” Claisse says.
And so in 2013, Claisse, a former line cook at Halls Chophouse, got to work creating his take on the java with Reitz, founder of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and co-owner of Leon’s Oyster Shop, acting as his business partner and advisor. After testing some 30 different versions, they lit upon a masterful combo of three ingredients—light-roast Arabica beans, courtesy of Good Coffee; handmade condensed milk; and pure Valrhona cocoa powder—and Khi-Khi Milk Co. was born.
The coffee offers hints of rich cocoa and makes for a creamy, caffeinated treat that’s sweet but not cloying. For now, snag it at local stockists such as Caviar & Bananas and Bon Banh Mi. With plans to ramp up production, Claisse and Reitz hope to make their way to other markets and to more restaurants and retail spots in town. “We like to think this is just the beginning,” says Claisse.