On June 3rd, I found myself amongst a vast sea of assorted button-ups, coffee cups, and mustaches. I never thought that the smell of popcorn and the smell of coffee would work together, but for some reason, it left me with a supreme hunger for both of them at the same time.
I had the pleasure of settling down on the balcony of the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco to watch A Film About Coffee. I had caught wind of the trailer about three or four months ago and immediately knew I wanted to watch this film, regardless of format. I signed up for their newsletter, which you should also do here, and right when they announced a screening in San Francisco about a month ago, I jumped online and bought a pair of tickets. The first trailer I watched had reeled me in with it’s intense imagery of a beverage I love so much. On a slow day, I drink about two cups, so it really has become a ritual – that’s why I looked forward to it and had relatively high expectations for it. As a plus, the film features a lot of my beloved San Francisco roasters. I’m glad I made it to the showing, because it not only met my expectations, but exceeded them across the board, leaving me with a greater appreciation and understanding of coffee.
The cinematography, down to the macro shots, was beautiful, to say the least. As a documentary, it’s hip, young, and trendy. Above all else, it did what it set out to do – inform. Even my non-coffee drinking friend enjoyed the movie. What’s not to like about something so beautiful and sexy? Instead of following a set chronological timeline, like most documentaries do, it told a series of stories that were all tied together by this one common element. All of the transitions were magical and magnificently done. Many props to Brandon Loper and his team for his incredible work, but now I want to move onto what struck me as the most powerful things about the film:
The distinguished coffee dignitaries were all given their time to shine. Keeping in mind that they are the experts in their field and passionate about all things coffee-related, you can take their thoughts and opinions at face value. I liked the fact that their personalities were kept intact and that their passion seemingly leapt off the screen and infected every single audience member. From Ritual Roaster’s Eileen Hassi Rinaldi to Blue Bottle’s James Freeman and Bear Pond’s Katzu Tanaka – you could see both the ritualistic aspect of their work, and how it’s both an art and a way of life.
Then there’s the other side of things: the story of the coffee farmer. This is the side that amazed me the most. I’m thankful that Avocados & Coconuts brought this to us because it is something that we rarely see. Most of us see coffee in bags or in the grinder. Some of us see coffee being roasted, but few ever get to go out to the farms and witness the production and processing. It’s giving credit to the farmers, workers, and families for whom this is their livelihood. So really, when you go buy a cup of coffee, it’s been touched by many hands, but paid respect to by each and every single one of them. This is why we talk about direct trade – it’s about finding a win/win situation and giving back to communities, even providing infrastructure to keep supporting our nation’s thirst for coffee. It’s about making coffee farming and coffee consumption sustainable. My favorite scene is of several farmers drinking espresso made from the beans that they grew. The look on their faces is priceless. I wonder what went through their minds: was it something like, those crazy people of America drink their coffee like this? When we support local, specialty, and direct-trade coffees, we are providing living wages to a farm.
In this age of globalization, we take for granted almost everything that takes a disproportionate amount of labor to create: our computers, our clothes, the food we eat, and the coffee we drink.
So let’s take a moment to remember that even though coffee is ubiquitous and synonymous with modern living, it takes an incredible journey from cherry to our tables – and that cup will be even more special.