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Caffeine Driven: Luke Pigott On Becoming One Of Chattanooga's Best Coffee Roasters

The story of how local Coffee Roaster and Musician Luke Pigott came to this point in his career.

Chattanooga has one of the biggest and most influential coffee scenes in the southeast and one of the main reasons why is the amazing individuals who drive local coffee culture. One of those individuals is coffee roaster and musician, Luke Pigott.

Luke had his first experience working with coffee in 2007 as a barista at a Starbucks in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He said that he didn’t particularly like the job but that he was thankful that it introduced him to specialty coffee. From there he started managing coffee programs for businesses in Hattiesburg and even started his own small roasting operation with a college friend.

It was in 2014 while Luke was working as an adjunct professor for Villanova University that his coffee career started to take off. During that time Luke became part of an unofficial mentorship for a local coffee company and there he learned how to roast professionally.

“I learned a lot about cupping and the roasting basics from the shop owner Rich,” Luke said. “But my old boss Matt Adams also introduced me to the concepts of scaling the business, being efficient, staying consistent and marketing that helped create the methods and ideology that I have today”

Luke later decided to move back south and started looking for coffee companies he could become involved with. He was heavily drawn towards Mad Priest Coffee after speaking with the owners, Michael and Cherita Rice. By this point, Luke had developed a strong sense of pride in his coffee and wanted to work with a business that he knew would create a quality product and have a strong ethical background. Mad Priest fits that bill perfectly for him since it is involved in aiding refugees and other social concerns.

When it comes to roasting specialty coffee, Luke is one of Chattanooga’s best. He fully believes in the idea of creating coffee that is of the highest quality possible for consumers. Cutting corners is never an option for him as he believes that coffee needs to always be prepared the right and proper way.

“At this point, I refuse to work in coffee if we can’t do it right,” Luke said. “By that, I mean ethics and quality as good as can be achieved.”

Ensuring that the coffee that Mad Priest uses is sourced in ethical ways is critical for Luke. As the business has grown and demand has increased, he has taken special care to maintain this standard. Just a few weeks ago Luke actually took a trip to Guatemala to meet some of the coffee producers he has worked with there so he can better understand their work. He said that being able to see how the other side of the business worked was fascinating and that he had great respect for the coffee growers and exporters he met.

The standards Luke has set for himself and Mad Priest are clearly paying off as Mad Priest is being praised by industry leaders. It was recently a runner-up for the best coffee in Tennessee by Food & Wine Magazine and has won two medals from the Golden Bean, the world’s largest international roasting competition.

“When I was a professor, or when I was a student, and now as a musician, I often rely on coffee. Can you think of anything cheaper than a cup of coffee, even the most expensive cup of coffee that a specialty ship can make, that has the power to completely alter your entire morning? I can’t. I think that’s why I’m here and not somewhere else right now.”

Make sure to go follow Luke on Instagram, @lukepigott, and to follow Mad Priest Coffee, @madpriestcha.