After much anticipation, we managed to watch “A Film About Coffee” on Tuesday, the 11th of November at the Electric Cinema in London.

It was a nice film that briefly illustrated what makes Specialty coffee so special. Stumptown, Ritual, Blue Bottle, Handsome Coffee Roasters (RIP) were some of the coffee roasters shown talking about coffee. There was some insight into some farmers Stumptown and Ritual work with in both Rawanda and Honduras respectively.

COFFEE IS SEXY

Following the film there was a panel discussion featuring, Joanne Berry from Mercanta, Andrew Miller from Cafe Imports, James Bailey from Workshop, James Hoffman from Square Mile, and Brandon Loper, the film director.

The Q&A was interesting. Brandon mentioned that he normally produces commercials, and this was his first film. He talked about his journey into making this movie. He said the hardest thing to do was figure out who to listen too and who to ignore.

Jo talked about how important it is to have a dialogue with farmers aligned with the appropriate financial support. She mentioned how unless your buying full containers its hard to dictate to a farmer any terms or processing methods.

Andrew Miller talked about his experience in Colombia. He mentioned how bringing some machinery that corn farmers use to measure humidity in the Mid West to Colombian farmers generated more coffee that met their standards leading to a larger financial reward for farmers!

There was a question in the audience around “how do we show producers processing methods?”  I wondered what kind of understanding did this person have about farmers that prompted him to ask this question.  The attitude behind the question demonstrates the cracks in the story we are telling within the industry. The question implied that coffee producers do not know how to grow coffee and need to be taught by baristas and roasters. Collaboration is one thing, “saving” farmers is another.

In the same way a barista can improve their technique, a roaster can improve their profile, a farmer can improve a few things.

In 1982 when Specialty was starting out and the market was being created,  the message needed to be:

1. Coffee can actually taste good
2. We need to help farmers produce good coffee. (Farmers were facing hardships when the C didn’t cover the cost of production.)

A lot has happened since the creation of the Specialty Coffee market.  The reality is that most coffee farmers today (in Central America) that produce quality coffee are competent.  We should be grateful for their labour as it gives us work.

If the story is unclear within the industry, imagine the confusion we are causing at a broader consumer level.

Are we holding our industry up by the story we are telling?

What should the 2015 version of the specialty coffee story look like? If we as an industry were able to share the same message,  would we be able to expand the 1% that Specialty Coffee represents of the entire coffee industry?

I wonder what insights Brandon could lend from his experience in producing commercials to our industry.

If your still wondering about what’s sexy about coffee, you’ll just have to watch the film to understand “WHY COFFEE IS SEXY” because I am not going to tell you here!

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