Filmmaker Jason Breckenridge dives deep into the London competition scene and makes an honest and wildly interesting movie about the progression of coffee.
This Beautiful Addiction, a film about coffee in London, starts off with a very basic problem. It’s sort of The Problem in coffee: baristas want to make and sell light and exquisite coffees, but most people just want a cup of coffee. No fuss. No explanation of its origin. Just a hot coffee, in their hands, and out the door. œThe people behind the counter can’t really communicate with their customers, and that creates friction, explains James Hoffman, the 2007 World Barista Champion and co-founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, œand we haven’t found a good way to explain.
James Hoffman is not the only coffee leader in London that Jason Breckenridge, director of the film, highlights. This Beautiful Addiction brings together a number of European coffee professionals in a documentary that follows a variety of different ideas and interests. Although centered on the 2014 UK Barista Championship cycle, the movie isn’t simply a story about barista competitions. Told in a series of episodes, the movie finds its voice through using the city of London as its main character, and details the rise of specialty coffee ”from James’ 2007 WBC win and the creation of Square Mile to its current iteration.
In a way, it’s sort of a history of the specialty coffee movement in London. œThis Beautiful Addiction was an exploration looking to show how the competing barista pushes ideas forward, the director shares. Jason himself is a self-admitted œwannabee barista, and uses the 2014 UKBC to follow a series of tangents. Viewers get to see a barista competition, learn about how coffee is processed, and find out more about the relationship between roasters and baristas.
The film starts by following John Gordon, the 2010, 2011, and 2013 UKBC champion, along with a few other baristas at differing levels of intensity and dedication to the competition. However, John is certainly not the main character, and the story weaves in and out competitors as we move further into the competition season. Eventually, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, owner of Colonna & Smalls in Bath, the eventual 2014 UKBC champion, comes in late in the game, wins the competition, and talks about how he’s here œto win.
Although the crux of the movie centers around competition, the movie itself isn’t about explaining the competition subculture to a lay audience. It goes beyond that. œThis Beautiful Addiction was an exploration looking to show how the competing barista pushes ideas forward, shares Jason. œI believe that competitions have contributed enormously to the industry. I also chose to focus on competition because it was a compelling way to tell the story of obsession, explore this idea of discovery and ˜progress’. Throughout the movie, many of the commentators disagree on a lot of things, but they all do agree on how barista competitions push innovative ideas forward, and the concept of progress and growth is paramount.
In comparison to other movies about coffee, This Beautiful Addiction is drastically unromantic. James Hoffman spends a good amount of time talking about the silliness of competition, and many of the commentators share opinions that wildly contradict other. In juxtaposition to Maxwell, for example, James notes that, œif your goal is to win [barista competition], that’s not actually a goal you’re in charge of ¦your competitors are out of your control. The movie doesn’t attempt to dress up coffee, and you see a number of competitors struggle, mess up their routines, and ultimately fail at their missions.
But this movie isn’t about selling coffee, and that’s what makes it so wonderfully refreshing. Unlike other coffee movies, hoping to sell a narrative to an assumed reluctant or uninformed public, Jason Breckenridge is all in. He’s obsessed with coffee, and his buy-in to the coffee scene allows his message to be honest and unadorned, relevant to baristas and coffee amateurs alike. By diving deep and getting close, This Beautiful Addiction becomes less about coffee competitions, and instead breaks down the coffee subculture in London, using competition as a tool of the film rather than being the center of the film. The movie isn’t an explanation or a justification of coffee, but a glimpse of a scene already moving, something happening all under your nose.