5 Coffee Documentaries Worth Watching

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We explore five coffee docs covering diverse topics from Wellington, New Zealand’s coffee culture to the realities of coffee production. 

BY VASILEIA FANARIOTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Documentaries offer a profound medium for education and inspiration, presenting real-life experiences and challenges faced by those responsible for bringing coffee from seed to cup. Through vivid imagery, compelling storytelling, and insightful interviews, these films deepen our understanding and appreciation of the world of coffee.

Here, we highlight five noteworthy coffee documentaries that have recently captured our attention. Each film offers a unique perspective on untold stories in the coffee industry.

We discover the vibrant coffee culture of Wellington, New Zealand, through the lens of passionate industry innovators. Photo via Pexels.

’Specialty: A Wellington Coffee Documentary’

“Specialty: A Wellington Coffee Documentary“ is a four-part series exploring the rich coffee culture of Wellington, New Zealand. The series delves into the city’s history, present, and future of coffee through the perspectives of passionate industry innovators. It examines the social, financial, and environmental factors shaping Wellington’s coffee scene, celebrating both the art and science behind each cup and the Kiwi entrepreneurial spirit driving the industry.

“Specialty“ is directed by James Ladanyi and co-produced by James, Ana Caicedo Macia, and Samuel Austin, who also doubles as the director of photography. The series will partially premiere at a public event in Wellington in August 2024, with the full series then available online for free. By offering broad accessibility, the creators aim to entertain, educate, and celebrate Wellington’s vibrant coffee narrative.

The documentary “Civet Coffee“ explores the controversial topic, shedding light on its production and ethical concerns. Photo via Unsplash.

’Civet Coffee: From Rare to Reckless’

This is a short documentary that explores the controversial practice of producing civet coffee, also known as kopi luwak. This specialty coffee, derived from beans partially digested by civets, has garnered significant attention since the early 2000s, leading to a booming international market projected to reach $10.9 billion USD by 2030, per the movie’s website. However, to meet the high demand, producers often resort to caging and force-feeding wild-caught civets in Southeast Asia. This method of production has resulted in severe consequences for animal welfare, conservation efforts, and human health. 

The documentary sheds light on these issues, aiming to raise awareness and advocate for the cessation of caged civet coffee production. The film is directed by Jack Wootton and produced by Jack alongside Jes Hooper. Released last April, it is available to watch for free. The documentary calls on NGOs and the tourism and coffee industries to join the movement to end the unethical practice of civet coffee production. 

In the first episode of “Ecos del Café,“ we hear personal narratives from producers at the Cerro San Luis Micromill. Photo via Pexels.

’Ecos del Café: Narrativas de Productores Costarricenses’

This documentary series by Cafe Imports delves into the history and dedication of Costa Rican coffee producers. Through personal narratives, the series aims to highlight the lives, challenges, and triumphs of those who have cultivated coffee for generations. The creators aim to provide viewers with a deeper understanding of the producers’ relationship with coffee and their vision for its future.

The series, first announced in June on the company’s blog, has already released a premiere episode focused on the Cerro San Luis Micromill. In this episode, siblings Alexander and Magali share their story of inheriting a love for coffee cultivation passed down through three generations. They discuss the deep connection to their land and family traditions, emphasizing their commitment to quality and innovation despite economic challenges and natural disasters. Their journey reflects the collective effort and shared values that define their approach to coffee production.

Witness the realities faced by coffee workers in Brazil, Vietnam, and Uganda, as they navigate occupational hazards in “From Beans to Brew.“ Photo via Unsplash.

’From Beans to Brew: A Journey into the Lives of Coffee Workers’

This is a documentary that takes a close look at the complexities of the coffee industry, highlighting the challenges workers face in achieving decent work conditions. It examines the numerous occupational hazards present in coffee production and emphasizes the need for a safe and healthy working environment for all coffee workers. Produced in collaboration with the International Training Centre of the ILO, this film is part of the Vision Zero Fund #CoffeePeople campaign, which supports efforts to improve occupational safety and health in the coffee supply chain.

The documentary features interviews with coffee growers from Brazil, Vietnam, and Uganda, providing firsthand insights into the risks and difficulties faced by workers in these major coffee-producing regions. Co-funded by the European Union, the #CoffeePeople campaign was launched in October 2023 and has reached over 25 million people across more than 50 countries. The film underscores the collective call to action for better safety and health standards for coffee workers, and has already had two screenings in June, one in Brussels and one in Copenhagen, during the World of Coffee event.

“The Real Cost of Coffee“ invites us to drive positive change in coffee-farming communities worldwide. Photo courtesy of St Remio.

’The Real Cost of Coffee’

“The Real Cost of Coffee,“ a documentary produced by Lumapixel in collaboration with St Remio Coffee, shines a spotlight on the hidden realities of coffee production. It explores the unsustainable practices and challenges faced by coffee farmers worldwide, ranging from financial inequality and lack of agronomic training to the profound impacts of climate change. Directed by Byron Wylder, the film aims to provoke a shift in consumer consciousness, urging viewers to consider the social and environmental implications of their coffee-consumption habits.

It seeks to stimulate dialogue and inspire action in support of coffee-farming communities, highlighting the critical influence of consumer choices in driving positive change. Recently recognized as a finalist in the Best Documentary Short category at the Cannes World Film Festival’s Remember the Future awards, the documentary is available to watch for free.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a senior online correspondent for Barista Magazine and a freelance copywriter and editor with a primary focus on the coffee niche. She has also been a volunteer copywriter for the I’M NOT A BARISTA NPO, providing content to help educate people about baristas and their work.

Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.

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Source: Barista Magazine

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