humans of coffee
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Humans of coffee: Andrew Sinclair

Who is Andrew Sinclair?

I’m Andrew and I run Mad Lab Coffee in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. I have insomnia but I don’t lose sleep over it. I’ve been a touring musician (like every other coffee person it seems), a 5 year Tesla Motors employee (Elon is my homeboy), and at one point in my life a Dean Martin impersonator for cruise ships (photos exist but I will never share them. I was an ugly Dean Martin). My life is vibrant like the ugly shirts I wear that my wife hates.

What is your favorite childhood memory? 

So I actually grew up in a 40 piece banjo band in Houston Texas called the Jubilee Banjo Band. I know, random. There was a day that me and my buddy were hired out for a gig, and we ended up playing at ZZ Tops ranch for their Christmas party. We played music with the guys and talked all night about music, gear, and life stories. I was 16 at the time so it was really a rad experience to meet a hero very randomly.

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If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently? 

I’d actually do two things differently. One is I wish I would have never picked up a cigarette. Thats why our new sample packs say “a better addiction” on the back. It’s a hard habit to kick. Second is I wish I would’ve listened to my mentors and people with experience in coffee more. Most young baristas start coffee with a chip on their shoulder and I was that pretentious barista for years. I wish I would’ve humbled myself by listening more. In this industry its the most important thing you can do. Shut up, stop thinking about how you’re right, and listen.

What do you feel most proud of?

Usually when people talk about what they’re “proud of” they talk about what success they have had in a monetary or notoriety aspect. Success for me isn’t in what you’ve accomplished, its by how far you’ve come from where you were. I’m proud of how far I have come from my past and how far Mad Lab has come in such a short time. I’m proud of the support I have from my wonderful little family (which is definitely what I’m most
proud of). I’m proud of my journey.

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If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why? 

My 1922 Bacon and Day 4 string banjo, my Stetson, and my Ikawa sample roaster. Each has a unique story in my life.

My 1922 Bacon and Day banjo is a story I like to keep to myself. Lots of emotion around that for me. But its a reminder that you have to learn how to love yourself before you can love others.

My Stetson was given to me by a loyal customer here in DTLA that I served for years. It’s a reminder to me about what it means to be in the service industry. If you take care of others, those people tend to take care of you.

My Ikawa made me better at my craft. It really helped me understand what I was doing in roasting. In such a competitive city like Los Angeles, not too many people are mentors to others who just want to learn how to be better. Its a reminder to me that I will help anyone who asks for help. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and I remember him saying “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

What do you want your tombstone to say? 

“He loved people a whole lot more, instead of a whole lot less”.

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What is Mad Lab Coffee? 

My passion project is Mad Lab Coffee. I’m able to freely create, curate, and discover coffee inside of what we do. Its exciting to be able to create without censorship or rules. I’ve played by the rules of “specialty coffee” and took the time to really understand those rules. Because to break all the rules you have to understand all the rules.

I think that’s one of the main obstacles holding our industry back. Stupid rules. There’s a barista here in LA who was fired because she was pouring latte art left handed. Yes. True story. Those rules piss me off and theres no rationale for them.

So I try my best to be the change I want to see in the world of coffee in that aspect. I collect data at every turn and conduct as much research around it as I can. If theres a number, figure, or chemical analysis we can perform on the coffees that Mad Lab carries, I find that data and compile it. That’s what makes it a passion project. I’m passionate about finding hard data that grows our knowledge of coffee and enlightens us to keep creating and curating.

What is your favorite kind of coffee? 

My favorite origin right now is India. There are a lot of great coffees coming out of India that people aren’t jumping on because its not your typical source for amazing coffees. People are afraid to buy coffees that they don’t see other roasters using. Everyone tends to source the same. Everyone wants to be safe and ritualistic. I like risk and spontaneity.

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In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

You’ll see me regularly at the San Julian Cognescenti coffee location in Downtown LA. CoffeeHall in Chinatown. No Ghost Bears (formerly Coffee Colab) in Downtown LA, and Dinosaur Coffee in Silverlake.

What does a perfect day look like?

Waking up after 8am. Then taking the family for a walk in Downtown. Of course we’re grabbing some pancakes at the Pantry. Then heading to the roastery to sample roast coffees. Move onto cupping and compiling data on coffees. Then getting nerdy by turning on our Sanremo Opera and pressure profiling our coffees to taste. Start winding down by sitting down to read the news over a solid batch brew. After that a beer at Ham and Eggs in Downtown LA. Then ending the night back home for a long walk with the dogs, then sitting with my family over a nice dinner.

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