Insightful and involving, Prima Coffee’s short film about what barista competitions do for our global industry is inspired
BY SARAH ALLEN
Ken and I started this Monday morning in Barista Magazine‘s office with a Chemex and a film: Prima Coffee’s just-released short documentary, “The World Barista Championship: A Global Influence,” which was primarily shot at the 2015 World Barista Championship (WBC) in Seattle in April. (Click on the image below to watch it in its entirety now.)
Coincidently, I attended the Portland premiere of the feature-length documentary, “Caffeinated,” last night. That film covers the story of coffee from farm to cafe with interviews, stunning cinematography of coffee farms around the world, and insights to present the specialty-coffee world to consumers in a digestible, interesting format.
Prima’s film is quite different: It showcases barista competitions as microcosms of the larger specialty-coffee industry. There have been a lot of coffee films over the years, though some of the best have come out just in the past couple of years, “A Film About Coffee” and “Caffeinated” among them. Part of the reason I haven’t been satisfied with many of the documentaries released about our industry earlier was their brief, generalized pictures of what barista competitions are in the larger scope of our worldwide industry. They have presented our coffee contests as ego-driven, insulated events that serve little purpose in furthering our communal mission: to spread education as a way to propel our industry forward in a sustainable fashion.
“A Film About Coffee” and “Caffeinated” are in part successful because they don’t even tackle the topic of barista competitions ”they are for a mainstream audience, and the filmmakers were aware that giving just a glimpse into the complex world of barista contests could alienate and confuse their viewers, who are by and large consumers, not coffee professionals.
Prima’s documentary, however, is about barista competitions from start to finish. Led by Prima’s Steve Rhinehart, the team that made the film is comprised of cinematographers, musicians, and journalists who all happen to also be incredibly passionate coffee people. This lends the result ”which is a gorgeously shot, thought-provoking examination of what barista competitions began as and what they have evolved into in the 16 years that the WBC has been taking place ”an authenticity that earlier films failed to achieve.
Steve and his team began planning what their film would be well in advance of the WBC in April in Seattle, which was held in conjunction with the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America’s conference and expo. They knew that coffee luminaries and influential baristas would be descending on the city in record numbers for this international event, and thought it the perfect time to not only document the WBC, but to interview some of the most significant voices in our specialty-coffee industry, Tim Wendelboe (2004 WBC Champion), James Hoffmann (2007 WBC Champion), Laila Ghambari Willbur (2014 United States Barista Champion), and Ben Kaminsky (2009-2011 World Cup Tasters Champion) among them.
The interviews are fantastic ”they’re so perceptive. Any respectable coffee professional will tell you that they’re never done learning when it comes to coffee, and this film is proof of that. I guarantee you’ll come away from viewing it with food for thought you’ve never chewed on before.
Further, the whole production is just stunning. This is a top-quality production, from the sweeping views of the city, to the well aimed shots of baristas on stage, to the way the interview subjects are showcased. Even the music is fantastic. The original pieces were created by Prima’s Ryan Felbinger, and are the perfect accompaniment to the film’s progression.
I personally want to that the Prima team for their efforts here: This film is a well-rounded, astute, and remarkable look at what barista competitions do for our industry, from regional events, to national contests, to the biggest one of all, the World Barista Championship. This is a welcome and very much appreciated piece of education for our global coffee library.