Picking and milling coffee on farms in Costa Rica and Nicaragua was just the start of Jeffrey Wetzel’s coffee journey.
Wetzel is the founder and owner of Mad Catter Coffee Roasters, a coffee roasting company based in the Lehigh Valley and a recent addition to the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market.
Wetzel has been in the coffee industry for about a decade. His passion began when he realized he no longer enjoyed Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and embarked on a mission to find a better cup.
He said he found it challenging in his barista jobs to work for different people who knew less than him, so he took matters into his own hands.
“There was a certain point where I realized I was really qualified for the job,” Wetzel said. “I took the jump and found the opportunity to actually start roasting, and I haven’t looked back since.”
He learned how coffee is grown, harvested and processed while working on the farms abroad and can now identify when coffee is of high quality. Wetzel said buying better coffee beans and paying attention to how that coffee is being roasted sets Catter Coffee apart from bigger companies.
Wetzel said he is currently working with an additional coffee roaster, and they use a six-kilo machine, which he said is “basically a 12-pound roaster — it is a big machine.” He said roasting one batch of coffee takes between eight to 12 minutes.
The way heat is applied is what Wetzel said creates the curves and different profiles of coffee beans, as well as how different flavors are pulled.
“I care about coffee, which is my passion and my geeky side,” Wetzel said. “I just pay attention really carefully to how the coffee is being roasted.”
One of the places where Wetzel sells his coffee is the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market, where he has been drawing the attention of the community that attends on Thursday mornings.
Jasleen Sandhu, ‘23, now a graduate student at Lehigh, frequently gets coffee at Mad Catter.
“It is good coffee, it really is,” Sandhu said. “It tastes better than Starbucks. I like the fact they donate to help cats.”
Wetzel said a portion of all drink sales is donated to Forgotten Felines & Fidos, a cat rescue located in Germansville. He said the cat donation is less of a focus of his company, but he thought it would be a good way to give back.
He also said the cat philanthropy was a fun idea to help the company grow.
“More or less, the cat aspect was just a fun branding idea,” Wetzel said. “I had to get into business before we could actually do all this fancy green buying. I just felt like utilizing my business to support something.”
Wetzel said he likes to share his passion for coffee by training others in the coffee-making process.
Brooke Aconevno, ’25, said Wetzel went to Café Wren, a coffee shop in her hometown of Milford, to train the employees.
“It’s really great service and (the employees) are really fun to talk to,” Aconevno said.
Currently, Mad Catter only has one employee besides Wetzel, but he said in the next six months they are probably going to need full-time help because Wetzel plans to focus on opening his own roasting facility.
In the future, Wetzel plans to begin wholesale roasting and supply coffee beans for cafes. He said he wants to be a resource for everybody and help coffee shops and cafes produce the best cup of coffee possible.
“My goal is to, every year, add one new direct partnership with a coffee producer,” Wetzel said. “I want to support the world and really try to give back to these coffee-growing communities.”