Hugh Jackman is known for being many things—singer, Broadway star, action movie hero—but coffee purveyor? It’s true. Since 2010, Jackman, via his Laughing Man label, has been producing organic and fair-trade coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
During a trip to Ethiopia, Jackman came to believe that unique products and the talented people who make them don’t receive the attention they deserve. Determined to bring distinctive products to market while supporting individual producers, like a friend he made on the trip named Dukale, and the growth of local communities, he formed Laughing Man Worldwide. With its 19 varieties of coffee beans, 13 flavors of tea and a hot chocolate mix, the company donates 100 percent of its profits to assist community development and entrepreneurial education worldwide. Since its launch, the brand has also opened three freestanding coffee shops in downtown New York City.
DuJour spoke with Jackman to learn more about his caffeine intake, the next X-Men movie and the long-awaited Houdini musical.
How did you come across the Ethiopian farmer named Dukale?
I met Dukale through an organization called World Vision Australia. I serve as a Global Ambassador for them. They are doing some very effective work in an area called Kochere in southern Ethiopia. It was there I met Dukale, worked with him and spent time with his family.
Why was coffee on your mind?
Coffee represents a way out of poverty for people like Dukale. For others, it represents a way to better understand some of the issues society would like to address. Something that’s in my life on daily basis now becomes a moment to remember—that something as small as buying a cup of coffee can make a big difference.
What did you feel was missing in the coffee bean market?
I think there is a lot of good work being done to raise awareness of the people involved in producing these delicious beans. Dukale is a great story and inspiration to keep up the good work. I promised him I would tell his story. Laughing Man Coffee is the fulfillment of that promise.
How did you come up with the name Laughing Man?
We thought about the moment of laughter between people. It does not matter who they are, if they are friends or strangers, rich or poor. In that moment the common bond of humanity is revealed. We are all the “Laughing Man.” Our motto is “All Be Happy.”
Why do you dedicate funds from your proceeds to World Vision and the Global Poverty Project?
World Vision is a doing some very effective work with entrepreneurs, [including] Dukale. They build their programs and solutions from community input and needs. Money is an important factor but without empowering the community the effects of money are short-lived. World Vision does this very well.
Where do you like to grab coffee in New York City?
My favorite place to grab coffee is at Laughing Man at 184 Duane Street. I am probably biased, but it really is a center of the community, with a warm staff and an all-are-welcome attitude. The Flat White is their signature drink. Coffee is about bringing people together and New York is about the same thing, and that’s what I love about coffee culture.
Are you able to spend time at home now that X-Men: Days of Future Past filming has wrapped?
I’m happy to be home for a bit now. We’ve just finished the promotional tour for Prisoners. Now it’s time to be with my family, coach my son’s soccer team, make a few lunches. I’ve been playing this role for nearly 14 years. I love stepping into this role. It’s like being with a dear old friend. Now that the shoot is over, I am excited for the release. Days of Future Past is going to the best of the lot. I can’t say much more or I will have a lot of people yelling at me!
What are some of your favorite fall activities in New York City?
I love everything about the fall—being with my kids in the park and the crisp air, there’s nothing more magical, except maybe the first snowfall!
Do you have any update on the Harry Houdini musical that was being workshopped for Broadway?
We had our final workshop at the end of October. We will determine if we move forward soon. I would love to make this happen—and if it does, hopefully by the end of 2014!