Joseph Mastrangelo: A double shot of phenomenology


Although Joseph Mastrangelo, owner of Zelie Beans Coffee, didn’t complete his degree at UD, he attributes his formation at the university and Holy Trinity Seminary to be quintessential in his current career as a business owner.

Starting out as a philosophy and letters major, Mastrangelo developed a love for philosophy.

In particular, the Introduction to Phenomenology course with Dr. William Frank served as an intellectual springboard for his future career as a youth minister and then coffee connoisseur-turned-business owner.

“People love coffee all over the world and they love it for so many different reasons, but you can’t get past that subjective experience of coffee — not just the jolt of caffeine, but the different aspects of the coffee experience,” said Mastrangelo. 

Mastrangelo is interested in learning more about people’s phenomenological worldview when it comes to coffee. He enjoys talking to people about their prior experiences since, according to phenomenology, those experiences continually influence how they perceive the world today — and that includes drinking a cup of coffee.

He said, “Any time that someone finds out I roast coffee, they ask ‘What is your best coffee?’ I tell them, ‘Well, they’re all great, but it matters what you like the best and what is your experience.’ That gets into their phenomenological worldview, and I can steer them in a direction that leads them to which kind of coffee they’d enjoy based on their previous world experience.”

Mastrangelo had the “classic UD-Holy Trinity Seminary experience” that consisted of a full-on seminarian takeover of the jail during one Charity Week as well as being enriched by the Core curriculum.

“I felt like I was never good at literature, history, or anything like that, but I felt like the Core really helped me be a more analytical reader and consumer of news and writing, and in particular, helped me prepare for life and to be able to critically look at information as I receive it — especially in this ‘new’ information age with social media and news articles and everything we’re around,” he said Mastrangelo.

He stressed that the skills taught at UD, and specifically by the Core curriculum, are essential to life.

Spending some time grappling with the Core texts and the academic rigor that UD has to offer was enough to open several career doorways where Mastrangelo felt that employers in youth ministry could see that he was fully formed to teach lessons about his Catholic faith.

He also attributes his faith in God’s will to get to where he is now, which is one of the many pieces of advice that he leaves with UD students.

“It’s important to recognize that wherever God takes you in your life, He wants you there for a reason and to make a difference — maybe in the wider world, maybe in just one person’s world, but God has a purpose for you wherever you’re going to be, so accept whatever that purpose is with an open heart and with love. That’s what’s going to make you happy,” said Mastrangelo.


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