As we wrap up our first US based Roaster Roster, we’d like to really thank Mad Lab Coffee for participating. Andrew has been nothing short of amazing. The most easy going human being you’ll ever have the pleasure to work with, if you’re so lucky. We interviewed Andrew through Instagram IGTV to pick the coffee part of his brain.
Christina: What made you start Mad Lab?
Andrew: We started Mad Lab about 6 years ago in a basement in DTLA. We started with a heart for the community, had a lot of friends with a lot of coffee shops who needed good coffee so I sat down and said, “well I know how to make good coffee so I’ll just start a company!” So that’s what we did and now Mad Lab is here.
Christina: That’s awesome! Why Mad Lab...why that name?
Andrew: *stammers* Well, it’s kind of stupid, so I had started this company in a basement, right? I brought in a buddy of mine and this is around the same time that weed got legalized out here and in this basement we had all of our test tubes and stuff, we were getting all of our numbers, density, moisture content, etc. So he goes, “bro, you’re like a mad scientist in here and this is like your lab man...your mad lab.” I was like, “yup, let’s send it, that’s going to be the name.”
Christina: That’s awesome, honestly. That’s so good. That’s great, I love that. Alright, I’m going to ask you some kind of funny questions, I think they’re kind of funny. If you had to pick a favorite bean that was not a coffee bean...what would you pick?
Andrew: Oh, easy. Beans from the hit show Even Stevens, Steven Lawrence.
Christina: *cackles* Wait, that is actually the best response! I would have never expected anyone to shout out Beans, but wow.
Andrew: Oh yeah, that’s what we’re going with. If it’s not a coffee bean, it’s Beans.
Christina: That’s so brilliant. If you had to pick your favorite mug that you have, what would it be and why?
Andrew: My favorite mug?
Christina: Yeah, your favorite coffee mug.
Andrew: Uhm, golly, see that’s...okay see there’s kind of a special one. It was on me and my wife’s first year anniversary. We took the trip up Highway 1 here in California. We stopped at EVERY coffee shop that is on it’s way to San Francisco, right? We stopped at this little, no name coffee shop, I don’t even think it still has a name, it’s just called “Cafe” in San Luis Obispo and they had this mug that says ‘I’M STILL STRUGGLING’ and that’s just what the mug says and there’s good memories tied with it, but that’s probably my favorite mug.
Christina: Aw, I love that! That’s a good one.
Christina: Are you drinking out of it now or no?
Andrew: *raises mug* No, this is actually from a deli down the street.
Christina: Honestly, also awesome.
Andrew: Great matzo ball soup they got there.
Christina: That’s good to know. Okay and then, I have two more questions, but the last one I’m like really, so psyched to ask this question. Would you rather give up drinking coffee completely or would you rather have to deal with the slight coffee taste with everything you eat or drink? So like, you’re eating tacos and you kind of taste coffee while you’re eating tacos.
Andrew: Well...that’s called mole so I would pick the second one because I’m already living that life so I’ll do the second one.
Christina: *laughs* That’s awesome. I mean, honestly, I would pick it too because yeah why not? Coffee is always good.
Andrew: Why not! We’re putting coffee in everything nowadays so...why not?
Christina: *laughs* And then, I have one more question, but first, I’m just going to say if anybody has any questions for Andrew specifically (I guess you can ask me too, but I would rather not answer questions) just comment them and we’ll try to get to them at the end. Yeah, but, last question. If you had to roast something that wasn’t coffee, what would you roast?
Andrew: OH roasted peanuts. Great bar food snack, ya know. You make friends that way if you go to a little dive bar here in LA. Right? You’re like, “oh man, what’s next?” and you bring a table a bag of roasted peanuts, you automatically make friends and you have a good night. So, roasted peanuts.
Christina: It’s really true, also, you could start a business that way. There’s all those little Nuts4Nuts stands in New York so why not start that out there? It’d be great.
Andrew: You can hit every county fair between here and New York, I mean, it’d be great.
Christina: It’d be great. Yeah, so, those are all of my questions for you. I’m trying to see if there’s any questions that are in these comments. But, let’s see. Let’s see. Let’s see. OH! We got a question from Louie. What’s the next gen movement in coffee? Thanks Louie.
Andrew: That’s a big one because there’s twofold, right? You can either go in the direction of super nerdy coffee people that would probably tell you the next gen in coffee is going to be exploration into new fermentation processes, right? That’s kind of what everyone’s been talking about for like, the last 2-3 years. Everybody’s talking about, “okay we’re going to go through this type of processing for coffee to try to up its quality so a producer can make more money, right? That’s kind of the mindset behind it. It is raising the bottom line for farmers that are working their tail off to be able to produce great coffee, right? The second part of it is more of the direction I see in coffee where it’s more communal based than it is service based. Right now, coffee is a very service based industry, right? I think coffee is definitely taking that road that is a better road where it’s a community vibe and that’s kind of like the DNA that we hold where, you know, it’s kind of like, a coffee shop is where you take someone on a first date and they end up being like your significant other, ya know? A coffee shop is where you meet up with a buddy and you end up starting a business together. They’re communal spaces. A lot of times I’ll tell people that baristas are just acoustic bartenders, right? We’re the new bars. We’re the new Cheers. Right? That’s what coffee shops are. So I’d say those are the two places and areas where coffee is moving for - it’s on the processing side, but also on the ‘hey we’re a community here and we’re going to look out for each other.’
Christina: Yeah. That’s a great answer, Andrew. So wonderful.
Andrew: Why, thank you.
Christina: Another question from Belephant..they asked, “how do you think the coffee industry will change with COVID-19?”
Andrew: So, that’s a big one. That’s a real big one. Right now, everybody is trying to figure out how to still survive COVID-19. I mean, it’s a sad story right now, in LA, there are so many coffee shops going under because most coffee shops out here only make $200-300 a day in sales. So with COVID happening, there are businesses that shuttered. I’ve gotten call after call out here like, “Hey dude, do you wanna buy some equipment from us? We’re having to close up shop. Do you know anywhere that’s hiring? We want to find our baristas work.”
So the first step is figuring out how to survive COVID-19. A little tid bit of advice, if you don’t have a to-go system right now at your cafe, figure one out. That’s going to be one of the biggest ones. But as far as ‘what does coffee look like after COVID-19?’...you know, I think the landscape of what shops you go to is going to change more than anything. But as far as, ‘is service going to chance?’ ‘is our cafe’s set up going to change?’ No, because at the end of the day, people want community, people want to go to meet up with their friends at a coffee shop and you know, have an hour long discussion about that they saw on their friend’s social media and like, they wanna gossip about it. And they want to go to coffee shops and study. Those things won’t really change, but I think the only thing that would change is with new build outs for cafes. They’re going to be keeping in mind, “okay, what’s going to happen if we go through another pandemic? We should probably build out some sort of thing in this business so that if this happens again, we’ll be ready.” So, I think it’s going to be a lot of future proofing, you know, after all of this is said and done.
Christina: Yeah, yeah. For sure. And then we had one other question from Louie again. What’re your thoughts about coffee combined with nootropics and adaptogens? I don’t know what that is.
Andrew: So, nootropics, that is a Silicon Valley thing. Nootropics are basically super pills that give you a super brain. Right? You see it all on like, Vice News and like, Facebook ads. Like, “hey buy this nootropic and become super smart instantly.” It’s like, instead of having to go find adderall, take this nootropic. That’s kind of like, their selling point, right? The integration of coffee into that, there’s really not a point. Instead of adding coffee into a nootropic, why not just drink a cup of coffee? It’s like, you can spend $40 for a pill box of 100 pills in it, OR you can buy a $3 cup of coffee.
Christina: And coffee probably tastes better. I don’t know what that other sh*t tastes like.
Andrew: It’s the whole snake oil thing of like, “trust me, you take this pill and you’re gonna be smarter bro. It’s gonna be great.” There’s the movie Limitless where he takes that pill and he sees the future and whatever it is. That’s kind of like nootropics whole thing that Silicon Valley has been trying to do for years. But at the end of the day, it’s just a pill with healthy stuff in it. It’s just vitamin supplements basically. So I don’t see the integration of coffee and nootropics as serious as people want it to be, but it’s like, hey, if you want to take nootropics because you’re smarter when you take them, go for it! But wash it down with a cup of coffee.
Christina: *laughs* Honestly, I’m good on that. I’ll just stick with coffee. Alright well, Andrew, the last thing that I personally have for you because it was a story that Toby spoke about. We heard that someone broke into your roastery and stole your beans so please, if you could like, reflect on that at all. Like, what the heck happened?!
Andrew: Well, ya know, it’s a weird time in LA. It just is. Bad things happen sometimes, unfortunate things happen sometimes, inconvenient things happen sometimes. But green coffee can be replaced. It’s pretty easy to replace it. If somebody needed green coffee, you know, hey cool, maybe they were like “I couldn’t afford coffee so I’m going to take some of this green coffee and I’m just going to take it and put it in an oven.”
Christina: *laughs* Wait, so it was green coffee that they stole? Not even roasted coffee?
Andrew: Well, there was that and then we had shipped out a bunch of coffees for Minor Figures for the collaboration. Regular USPS came and picked it up and I got a notification via USPS that was like “hey, your package isn’t going to make it to its destination because one of our mail trucks got set on fire during the riots…”
Christina: Oh my gosh. At least you’re a great sport about it, Andrew.
Andrew: I mean, let’s be honest. The last couple weeks here in LA with all the protesting and standing up for the voices has been amazing and we’ve tried to do everything we can to support people through this really cool movement that’s happening and it’s a movement towards accountability. So if I lose like 20, 40, 50, 100, 200,000 pounds of coffee because of that, cool, awesome, I’m glad I could help. Because protests don’t work unless they’re expensive. That’s just how it is. So yeah, I’m here for it.
Christina: Hell yeah, you’re a great spirit. I love it. I love it so much.
We received a lovely compliment from a friend, named Noah, and Andrew goes on to discuss in great detail a bit about Noah and one of his favorite memories of Noah and the shop he worked at in LA called Spring for Coffee.
We ended the chat with many thank yous and touched upon our featured roaster next month, Dead Stock Coffee. We're super stoked to have a similar chat with them in July. If you'd like to watch the IGTV, feel free to do so here.