Emma Chamberlain: I have had one very, very large cold brew with almond milk and I'm planning on making my second shortly. I absolutely need more ASAP.
My love for coffee started when I was maybe 10. I used to go to coffee shops with my mom and get, literally, a latte that was just a bunch of foam and that was it. I was also going to cafés throughout my childhood with my dad, and it was just such a great memory. Then in high school, I was using coffee to keep me up so I could do my homework so it's just been there forever.
My team and I wanted to turn that into something, especially since it was such a big part of my brand on the internet. We were like, "Emma, you're passionate about this, we think this could work. We have the time to create this company, let's do it," and they knew that from day one, that was my dream. It was just a matter of when it made sense to put it into action, and we had a little gap where we didn't have much going on so we did it. It was so natural and it made so much sense. It was such an obvious decision.
Totally. San Francisco, specifically. There are so many amazing cafés there, and I think it kind of turned me into a coffee snob really young. No regrets, because those are some of my best memories.
I've definitely always had a very specific taste when it came to coffee. Not saying that I only like one type but I definitely know when I like a coffee and when I don't. It's funny because being somebody that likes coffee so much, sometimes I'll go get a coffee somewhere I haven't been before and just not like it and not drink it and people are like, "Do you even like coffee?" and I'm like, "Yeah, when I like it." I'm a little bit picky about it.
When we did the tasting, it was fun because I got to truly mix and match different origins and stuff like that to make the perfect blend for me. I just continue to do that for every flavor, and it's been fun to branch out and try new things I wouldn't normally choose. Like I'm not a big fan of a fruity blend but when I mix it with something that has a caramel undertone — I don't even know if that word is right — but when it has a caramel flavor with it, that together makes something that I love so much. You know what I'm saying? It broadened my taste as well. But I still am picky.
I'm not super into very acidic coffee, like coffee that makes you feel like you're going to get heartburn after. I like things that go down easy. That doesn't necessarily mean I like it mild — I do like a very strong cup of coffee. I think that there's a balance where it's not too acidic but still packs a punch. It's a very weird balance. I love a nutty, chocolatey, caramel-y, butterscotch kind of sweet coffee like that. That's definitely my favorite. I also love a nice roasted, almost smokey flavor as well. I mean, it kind of depends. I'm all over the map.
When we launched in December, it was kind of one of those things where it was a baby. It was just us figuring out if it works and gauging what everyone likes. We put a lot of time into the product itself and in making that perfect and a lot less time into the branding and the aesthetic of the brand.
We realized down the line that there was a lack of personality in the brand. The product was great but we just said, "Let's start over. We have a great product to back it up. Let's make it the coffee brand of my dreams." We spent so much time turning it into that. We also didn't define ourselves based on what we were before. People loved the coffee and if we change the whole branding, that shouldn't change things for people who are already fans. It will just make them bigger fans if we do it right. So that was kind of our headspace. It really is like we're launching a new company in a sense.
I'm really into the whole beans, of any of the blends. Right now, I have the Night Owl in my machine. I really like all of them, but the reason I've been into the whole beans is, I've been putting them in my espresso machine and just doing that whole strategy. I used to do just cold brew, mainly because we didn't have whole beans. Now we do and it's been really fun doing that and putting them in the espresso machine. But then again, I'm very much a cold brew drinker so it's very hard to choose.
For sure. I mean, God! It's been a huge learning curve because even though I've always been an avid coffee drinker, there's so much behind-the-scenes stuff I didn't know about. For example, how where the beans are grown affects the flavor, and how where they're harvested also affects the flavor. And the difference between light roast and dark roast and truly, what that means. Seeing the whole process, there is so much to learn. It's so cool. Also just running a business in general. How to grow a loyal fanbase for a product rather than a person, it's a very different thing. I learned a lot of that within the first six months of having the company. It all became so clear to me very fast, and it was time to apply that and make this fifty times better.
I took a blow to my ego a little bit when I had to say, 'Okay there is a lot I want to change. There is a lot about this that is not the way I wanted it to be.' To realize that a rebrand needs to happen and that we might've done a few things wrong, to admit that to yourself is tough. But when you do, and you fix those problems, everything comes so easily. It's putting your ego aside and just doing it.
I've been really fortunate to have such a supportive group of people around me that remind me that it doesn't matter what anyone says. If I'm passionate about it then I should just do it and that really helped me ignore any outside opinions. I'm also really fortunate that people who know me from my work on the internet were all so supportive.
On the other hand, there were a lot of elements behind the scenes that were tough, like when things go wrong. Not everything's going to go right, like when there are shipping delays. It's hard not to take that personally when people are like, "Where is it? What happened?" Even when it's completely out of my control or my company's control, people come to you and they attack you when you're the face of it all. That was tough because I was like, "Oh my God, people are mad at me because one of their packages was late." You just have to learn how to remove yourself from that and keep moving forward. Nothing's going to be perfect. Nothing's always completely smooth. There's always going to be little issues here and there. You might make a bazillion mistakes.
The other thing is — this is probably the best advice I have — when I started Chamberlain Coffee, it was a very different company from what it is today. It's a fully different company now. I took a blow to my ego a little bit when I had to say, "Okay there is a lot I want to change. There is a lot about this that is not the way I wanted it to be." To realize that a rebrand needs to happen and that we might've done a few things wrong, to admit that to yourself is tough. But when you do, and you fix those problems, everything comes so easily. It's putting your ego aside and just doing it.
I'm somebody that really likes to live day to day. I might be a Youtuber until I'm 50 and I also might not. I used to make five-year plans, ten-year plans for myself but they just never come true. I realized, tomorrow isn’t promised. I have no idea what's going to happen. This company could do incredibly well and I believe that it should. I'm so proud of it. But you never know and I don't know. My YouTube, one day everyone could wake up and say "Eh, I don't want to watch her anymore." Nothing is promised in any of my endeavors so it's all going to be about finding that medley of what I'm passionate about and what's working at that moment and putting my love and time into that.
With Chamberlain Coffee though, I can see that hopefully growing and growing and growing and becoming something that could be my main source of income and potentially become, not necessarily my full-time job, but a bigger part of my job. It's definitely a big part of my job now but when you start a new company, you don't make money from it. It's a passion project right now and we're just doing what we can and putting everything back into the business.
I mean, one of my goals is to open a shop one day, retire, and be a barista at the coffee shop. That is absolutely my goal.