When you think of an alt band, the last thing you’d equate with the hard-hitting drummer known as “Shanimal” is that he’d have his own blend of coffee, but that’s exactly what Shannon Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars has done with his Black Fuel Trading Co.
Why coffee? “I grew up around it,” he said. His grandfather, who was Spanish and helped raise Leto and his younger brother Oscar-winner Jared Leto in Louisiana, was a very intense man who was very serious about his coffee.
“I would watch him make it, it was his morning ritual and he wouldn’t let anyone mess with it because it had to be made exactly the way he wanted," Leto said. "He had a chicory blend which I will try to recreate in his honor.”
Born out of his love and passion of café, fashion and antiques, Black Fuel Trading Company is the drummer’s baby. While many celebrities rush to stamp their names on products, he is slowly and methodically building the company from the ground up.
“I decided to create Black Fuel about 6 years ago, at the time it was an idea and I kept thinking how am I going to do this, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I got serious about it. You know every great idea begins over a cup of coffee, so that’s where I began.” said Leto to NBC Latino.
Leto would use his 14-plus years on the road with his band to his advantage by visiting cafes all around the world. “It was fun trying all these coffees,” Leto said.
Once he was back from tour Leto began researching different roasters until he found the right one. "It took me a year and a half before I had my signature blend, the SL Blend.” He did the same with the other merchandise currently offered at Black Fuel, trying on hats, t-shirts and sipping from mugs until he found the ones he wanted.
The site also offers a blog that acts as a Coffee 101, an educational tool for those wanting to learn more about coffee as well as different brewing methods and a new line of brewing equipment.
The multi-instrumentalist and artist's intention is to create a lifestyle brand and a way of living to share with the world, adding apparel, jewelry, perfume, antique furniture and candles along with a café.
Most importantly, a percentage of each bag of coffee sold will go to charity. The money will go back to the farmers where he acquires the fair trade beans.
“It not only helps the farmers directly but the community at large as it helps to build schools. Growing up poor with a single mom on welfare and food stamps, is something I’ve never forgotten, its shaped me and I always want to give back.”
When asked about the company’s logo he recounts that as a child he and a class mate were asked to draw a rose, he drew his and painted it black. When asked why black he said “because it’s beautiful to me, it’s different.” Well, roses aren’t black, he was told, it was weird. While heartbroken, Leto said he carried that with him and learned a valuable lesson: “Weird and thinking outside the box isn’t bad, it’s not negative, what leads to greatness.”
While he slowly builds his brand, the company has been setting up pop-up shops all around Los Angeles, including one at Coachella and last year at Camp Mars, a three-day camping experience created by his band Thirty Seconds to Mars where the “Echelon” get to hang out and do a series of activities with band members as well as an intimate performance from the group.
A true labor of love, Black Fuel will soon introduce scented candles, a male cologne, woman’s perfume and a coffee scrub.
“I’m very excited about this because scents are very important. Scents create memories, they transport you to a time or place or remind you of someone.”
Always a flirt, when asked what the perfume/cologne would smell like and what kind of notes we can expect, Leto said in his growl-like deep voice, “Well I guess you’ll find out.”