sprudge twenty harlin thomas
Harlin Thomas (Photo courtesy Harlin Thomas)

Welcome to The Sprudge Twenty Interviews presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2021 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty.

We're excited to present the next in our series of Sprudge Twenty interviews, focused today on Harlin Thomas of MochaBox Coffee Company. You can learn more about the project here via MochaBox's about page. If you're interested in drinking along with MochaBox at home, or want to snag some excellent merch, check out MochaBox's online shop.

“Harlin Thomas is the Chief Executive Officer and Master Roaster at MochaBox Coffee Company. He came up with the idea of entering into an industry that he didn't know much about, but knew that it was space that he could eventually call home. Harlin's background in supply chain management has allowed him to quickly adapt within the high-demanding coffee business. His passion for coffee, commitment towards building a strong legacy, and leadership towards fighting for more diversity, equity, and inclusion within the coffee industry is why I am personally nominating him.”

Nominated by Floyd Sartin

Hey Harlin! How have the challenges of this last year informed your work?

The challenges of this last year, specifically around the social justice, has helped me think about the ways that my business can help raise awareness and support the organizations that are working to bring about change in our communities.

What issue in coffee do you care about most?

The social sustainability of the coffee farmers. With most of the coffee we consume coming from economically challenged countries/regions, I feel that it is very important that we as coffee consumers support through fair trade practices and highlighting some of the sustainability efforts that are happening in those countries.

What cause or element in coffee drives you?

The roasting element within coffee drives me. The fact that I still have much to learn about the roasting process fuels me to research, study, and go hard at it everyday!

What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?

I think consumer education is critically overlooked at times. I think its important for the consumer to understand how the coffee they are consuming is produced and sourced and how much labor went into getting them the coffee that they may love.

What is the quality you like best about coffee?

The smell of fresh roasted coffee is like no other!

Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?

I think the biggest “god shot” moment was taking a leap of faith into the roasting process and then realizing that it wasn't as much of a gargantuan learning curve as I would have originally thought.

What is your idea of coffee happiness?

V60 and a bag of MochaBox Black Bottom near by!

If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?

Definitely a barista… never been one, but I play barista at home and have some dope coffee mocktails that I have been working on lately.

Who are your coffee heroes?

Honestly, my coffee heroes are all the farmers out there doing the tough job of coffee producing day in and day out. The company would not exist without them.

If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Nelson Mandela. I remember my mom taking me to see him speak in Detroit as a kid and at that time I really couldn't appreciate his life journey. After learning more and more about him over the years, I would love to hear his stories and get advice on fighting through adversity and leadership.

Do you have any coffee mentors?

When my business partner and I first entered the industry, we met two people at CoffeeFest in New York that have helped us and provided us with advice from that moment to this day. Joey Stazzone, Owner of Cafe Kreyol and Sean Ricks, former owner of a coffee company in Virginia. The time they spent with us and them welcoming us into their space has been invaluable to our growth and development as owners of MochaBox Coffee Company.

What do you wish someone would've told you when you were first starting out in coffee?

To focus on branding and your value proposition to the consumer. This is something that we learned later but would have been helpful in acquiring customers in the beginning.

You’re the first barista on Mars. What’s on your brew bar?

V60, espresso maker, cool coffee mugs, whiskey, and a few Torani syrups for some flava!

Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.

Childish Gambino—”Time”.

Where do you see yourself in 2041?

Somewhere poolside… coffee in one hand and mimosa in the other… retired!

Thank you!

The Sprudge Twenty Interviews are presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2021 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twentyand check back for more interviews right here on Sprudge.