It was no big deal. Hyper-charged digital creator and longtime coffee aficionado Chris Olsen just thought it would be fun if he filmed a TikTok video in which he bought Starbucks coffee at a New York airport and then handed it off to his dad in Washington D.C.
Then he delivered a cup to Meghan Trainor. Then Ashley Tisdale. Then Charisma Carpenter. Then Drew Barrymore. Then Austin Butler at the “Elvis” world premiere (at the Cannes Film Festival!). By last fall, he was bringing a cup o’ joe directly to Vice President Kamala Harris. “She was so sweet and the whole thing was so surreal!” he says.
But Olsen didn’t truly realize he had become a viral phenomenon until total strangers — just a few of 9.6 million TikTok followers — started to approach him about his signature video series. “People were like, ‘Where’s my coffee?’ or delivered me a coffee if I were hosting a red-carpet event,” says Olsen, who only joined the social media platform in 2020 and was once named People’s Sexiest Guy on TikTok. “Because of all those interactions, I realized that what I was doing wasn’t just living online.” The in-person popularity also gave him a jolt of inspiration: “I wanted to create something physical that anyone could enjoy from their homes.”
Enter Flight Fuel, his new coffee brand that features three blends of internationally sourced whole beans (cowboy, caramel and hazelnut) and two cold brew concentrates (vanilla and caramel). True to his high-flyin’ style, each product is named after a major airport across the globe and the branding is inspired by the bright style of 1960s-era Pan Am airlines. “I really tried to cover all my bases where if you like a certain type of coffee, I’ll have that blend for you,” he says. “I’m also trying to make it personal so people watching my content will feel like they have a little piece of me.”
After fittingly jetting from Los Angeles to NYC (he splits his time between both cities), Olsen got on the phone to talk about his mocha musts for CNN Underscored.
For the record, Olsen’s drink order is a vanilla iced latte or a vanilla cold brew. That’s why he’s extra excited about this customizable beverage. “This was the first one that I taste-tested and I knew immediately it was a yes,” he says. “It’s not like you drink it and you’re immediately overwhelmed with vanilla. So you can add a little sweetener or milk only if you want to.” He adds that the product is travel-size so customers can tote it on the go.
• Related: The best cold-brew makers we’ve tested
Confession time: The perishable coffee that Olsen brings to his famous friends does indeed make the journey, but it’s always discarded upon its destination. He aims to change that with this insulated tumbler. “It will stay cold or hot for up to 12 hours,” he says. In other words, “It will definitely handle a cross-country flight. It just may not last if I’m going to, like, Dubai.” He also raves about the holder’s bright, airy and colorful design that “makes me happy.”
After Olsen chugs his morning iced latte, he settles in for the day with a warm cup in this unique ceramic mug. “I’ve always been super intrigued by this mug because it can literally keep your coffee hot for hours,” he says. Credit the built-in battery, which enables a 145-degree temperature for 80 minutes — or all day if it’s resting on its charging coaster. Fear not, you can hand-wash it.
“I’m definitely the person who loves a little espresso shot,” he says. “I feel like it’s important to have one of these at home because you’re able to really customize how you want to make your coffee and how strong you want it even down to the browns.” He picks this compact black and stainless steel latte and cappuccino maker — complete with a 15-bar pump and milk frother steam wand —because it’s “very budget-friendly.”
• Related: The best espresso machines we’ve tested
No espresso machine? You should still use a frothing wand to stir up any milk-enhanced coffee. “It’s a really easy and cost-effective way to help make your drink your own,” he says. And here’s a free tip: “We’re seeing the rise of cold foam in coffee culture right now.” This little whip is USB rechargeable (no batteries!) and mixes things up with the click of a button. It even comes with a travel case.
Olsen is happy to put a lid on it. But he likes drinking his iced coffee with a straw — preferably an environmentally friendly one. “I like that bamboo straws are compostable once you stop using them and that’s important to me,” he says. And though he admits metal straws can have a metallic taste, “I don’t think bamboo adds anything when you drink from them.” (Speaking of eco goodness, he adds that Flight Fuel uses 100% carbon-neutral shipping partners.)
Your favorite 13-loving mega-star “fits the coffee shop vibe really beautifully,” Olsen says. And Swift’s new album Midnights is especially “wonderful to listen to because it’s bright and starts your morning coffee on the right foot.” (In fact, Olsen just listened to “Snow on the Beach” on his Spotify list.) But he’s quick to add that Swift’s music is dependent on the weather: “If there’s a winter snowy vibe, you may want to go to Folklore or Evermore. They’re quieter.”
• Here’s everything you need to know about making cold brew
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