‘A Film About Coffee’ perks up this java-lover
If you love coffee, you have to watch this film. If you want to understand what makes coffee freaks so passionate about their brew, you have to watch this film. If you want to understand the global coffee economy, watch this film.
Or, if you just love beautiful pictures and exquisite cinematography, watch this film.
“A Film About Coffee” came out earlier this year, and it has been much-buzzed about in the world of specialty coffee. There have been screenings of the hourlong film around the country — including in Boston, since the film features George Howell, a pioneer in the specialty coffee industry who now oversees a roastery in Acton.
Finally, it’s available online for those who haven’t made it to a screening (it’s $4.99 to rent for 72 hours, or $12.99 to buy). Finally, I got to see it.
The film shows the quirkiness of a barista competition (“part olympics, part dog show”), the long labor involved in planting and growing coffee beans, and the meditative experience of watching a Japanese barista make a cup of coffee.
You can feel, sense, and hear the coffee. The scooping of the beans, the pouring of the cup. It captures well the exuberance of finding a new coffee, or trying a great cup of coffee.
“Coffee is like the colors of the rainbow,” Howell says in the film. “There are a lot of flavors to them, and they are intrinsic to the coffees, to where they were grown and the variety and all the rest.”
“The world of coffee really expands. It’s not long a cup of joe,” he adds. “It’s now an adventure, in search of the ultimate cup.”
“The more you taste and the more you start to taste better qualities and open new doors you really find that how you make the coffee, how you brew it, starts to change as well.”
The film also showcases the farmers, and really connects the coffee bought at a high-end coffee shop with the manual labor of growing and preparing the beans. Nine different sets of people are involved with preparing the coffee before it gets exported.
One powerful set of scenes shows workers picking beans, then putting them in bags, then loading them onto bikes, then riding them down dirt roads, then weighing and processing the beans.
Another transitions from black men in Navy worksuits in Rwanda who are loading up bags of beans to a white worker in a hooded sweatshirt in Portland, Ore., getting ready to roast the beans. The juxtaposition truly highlights the global nature of coffee — and the varied hands that go into preparing what ends up in your cup.
“The moment that it’s harvested all the quality is there. And nobody who comes next in the chain is going to add quality to the coffee. Everybody is going to take away a little bit,” said Kyle Glanville, co-owner of G&B Coffee. “And I think that the goal should be to take away as little as possible. And really try to reveal what is locked into that coffee at the moment of harvest.”
One of the more striking statistics, relayed by Chris Owens at Handsome Coffee Roasters: One coffee tree produces one pound of coffee a year.
This is the first feature-length film for San Francisco-based filmmaker Brandon Loper. There aren’t many films dedicated to coffee — another worthy one is “The Perfect Cappuccino” — but this one is worth the view.
One treat in the film was the faces of the Honduras coffee farmers as they try their coffee, for the first time, prepared with milk, as a cappuccino.
“Me gusta,” one farmer says. “Me gusta.” (“I like it, I like it.”)