The actor opens up about his coffee company, Australian flat white culture and the importance of fair trade.
Hugh Jackman, the award-winning actor most recently in The Greatest Showman, knows good coffee. He grew up in the land of lattes and flat whites, long before they were de rigueur in the United States.
“Australia has an amazing coffee culture,” he tells Food & Wine. “If you order a coffee and you don’t specify what it is, you’ll get a flat white.”
Not that Jackman grew up drinking them. Despite cappuccinos being a presence in the country since 1960s, according to Jackman, “My father persisted with instant coffee, so I grew up thinking that that’s what that was.” It wasn’t until he went to Italy in his late teens that he discovered differently.
Still, his love of the elixir runs deep—so much so that he co-founded his own coffee company in 2011, with friend David Steingard. Called Laughing Man Coffee, it was inspired by Jackman’s attention to non-sustainable wages for coffee growers in places like Ethiopia, which he originally visited in 2009.
While it’s not a non-profit—the company was acquired by Keurig in 2015—Jackman doesn’t actually take any profits from it. Instead, a portion of all proceeds go to his Laughing Man Foundation, which invests in the livelihood of coffee growers.
And, given how profitable the venture is, it’s not a negligible philanthropic effort. According to the actor, one of Laughing Man Coffee’s two brick-and-mortar locations—both in New York City—actually pulls in more money per square foot than any other store in Manhattan.
“We passed the Apple Store two years ago,” Jackman says. Given, the store is less than 500 square feet, but still: That’s a lot of $3.85 flat whites. In addition to its two brick-and-mortar stores, Laughing Man Coffee also has a line of packaged coffee and Keurig pods—which are actually one of only three Keurig lines that are recyclable, according to a Laughing Man Coffee spokesperson.
Despite being involved in his own coffee venture, the actor limits himself to two espressos or so a day. When he does make coffee, his preferred method?
“Freshly ground beans in a plunger,” he says. That’s a French Press to everyone stateside. He’s also a fan of really dark, strong coffees, and likes stovetop espresso pots; either way, caffeine within a half hour of waking up is requisite.
And while he might drink other brands besides his own, he’s always made a point of buying fair trade. “It literally doubles the income of those growers,” he says. It’s the difference between “subsistence,” he explains, and being able to have a livable wage.
You can find Laughing Man Coffee online, and at its two locations in New York City.