On November 6th, at a theater near you (or far from you, perhaps), the documentary Barista will open in limited release. It’s a film about the National Barista Competition.
Yes that’s right, National Barista Competition. About a thousand baristas enter into competitions all over the US. The winner represents the US in the WORLD Barista Competition.
I found only one review of this movie. (Movies are reviewed prior to their releases only if they are in a film fest.) But I did find a website that posted a short film about the World Barista Competition. So I saw the video before I read the review, a good idea because then I could understand it.
Welcome to the world of baristas!
In the world and national competitions, which are not open to the public, each barista gives a 15-minute demonstration of making three coffee specialty drinks (cappuccino, espresso and the like). Apparently there are six judges with an expertise in either the sensory or mechanical aspects of brewing. In the video, it looks like the judges are in each contestant’s face while the contestants try to eloquently explain what they are doing. The judges test for everything, including how well you clean the coffee apparatus (I kid you not, but it says that will affect the taste. OK, but….)
Last April the World Barista Competition was held in Seattle. Haha! you think. Of course it’s in Seattle! But listen, the WORLD competition has been around 15 years; it started in Norway. It just so happened to be in Seattle this year. The countries are from the world over; the latest one to join is Iran.
The world competition is influential on the coffee industry worldwide. For example, in 2013 an Australian barista used an old model of a coffee grinder that was about to be phased out. He won second place; afterwards, the manufacturer couldn’t produce the grinder fast enough.
OK, there you go. The background. Now you understand what Barista Competitions are about.
And now the Review of the review:
Review by Sarah Allen, Co-founder and Editor, Barista Magazine. OK, so not the most biased of reviewers, but I love her writing and passion for coffee.
Plot: This documentary is about five baristas who compete with thousands of other baristas to be winner of the National Barista Competition.
Spoilers skimmable? There is one paragraph that should be skipped, but I forgive the critic. We need some motivation to see the film!
Bottom Line: Thumbs up!!
I would say that Allen’s review is as big a labor of love that brewing the nation’s most perfect cup of espresso must be. She writes a lovely description of Barista’s score, and alludes to stories about baristas helping coffee-bean farmers in third-world countries.
Don’t be fooled by the short length of my review of Barista’s movie review. One thing ran into another, and I ended up spending a ton of time researching this competition, lovingly encapsulated into a movie that, as reported by Rotten Tomatoes, 22 people want to see (100% score on who wants to see it).