Do you remember the last time your local coffee barista gave you a warm hello? Have you watched them making loud noises with their portafilter behind the counter, or zoned out while they chat about your coffee’s “story?” We might take these things for granted, but there’s actually an entire global competition circuit for it! Enter the Barista Championships, where representatives from different walks of life compete to become annual coffee ambassadors, both regional and international. In this article, I will be reviewing 2 videos, both produced in 2015, that talk about the inner workings of these events.
As a relative neophyte in the world of coffee-making, one could assume that this is a simple career with little means of advancement, but it is so much more than that. Watching these films, I learned that the role of the barista is to be at the forefront of customer service. It’s a task that requires precision in measurement and taste.
There is a bright future and a global respect in store for those who are masters of their craft
Our first film is produced by Prima Coffee Equipment, Titled “The World Barista Championship – A Global Influence.” We get insight into the event on the world stage, where the documentary focuses on the importance of establishing regional communities to increase the awareness and influence of the specialty coffee culture globally. It is a well-made compilation of champions, competitors, and insiders to the coffee industry who give us a glimpse of the action in this prestigious event. They discuss their experiences and the impact of the competition on the common barista.
WATCH “The World Barista Championship – A Global Influence” HERE:
Our second film, this time published by Zagat, we have “Battle of the Baristas.” It’s a slightly more local documentary highlighting the US Barista Championships as it follows the narrative of three competitors coming from their respective cafes in different states of the USA. From the qualifying rounds to the finals, the video focused on how these baristas follow a set of rules in order to satisfy a panel of judges, taking time to show each competitor’s personality during the competition period. Watching this felt like I was part of the actual event, and it provided specific details that will help the uninitiated understand the processes each contender tries to perfect during their run for the title.
WATCH “Battle of the Baristas” HERE:
We rate both films 5 out of 5 stars.
Comparing these 2 videos, coupled with the things I also observed from the recently concluded local Barista Championship in March, I learned that it is organized to look for an ambassador worthy of representing the global coffee community. No matter how great the personality of a barista during their 15-minute performance, they also have to prove their technical know-how to the judges, which is not only limited to how they are able to make and serve the coffee flawlessly, but also project their knowledge about the history and processing of the beans they use.
As such, I believe Prima’s video was made for those who want to know more about the Championship’s history, as well as its message and goals for the community and industry. Zagat was more for those who want to see the happenings behind the scenes, as well as the emotional aspect of the competition for each barista involved.
As to how each video was produced, it was very clear that Prima’s is a compilation of short interviews with other former champions and insiders. There were a few areas in the Prima film where background music may have overpowered the person being interviewed, making it a little difficult to listen to.
Generally, the content of the film was coherent and paired well with the quality of each interview clip, and I commend the consistent color grading of each segment, from inside the convention hall to the gardens outside, creating a good visual flow.
For Zagat’s film, I appreciated how each interview was unfiltered as it starts in the respective cafes of the three baristas, up to the epilogue of the winner and the runners-up after the Finals. The animations, visual and music transitions were on point, what you expect in this kind of documentary, and cinematography had a very casual feel. This made the picture feel natural and interesting to watch.
As a final thought, I think both videos communicated their own messages well. Specifically, I like that Prima did not use their production as a self-promotional tool. Along with Zagat, they shone a light on a competition scene that was not on my radar in any way before, and so elevated my appreciation for the barista, their craft, and the other stakeholders in the coffee industry who have spent their time and effort to make this career worthwhile, long-term, and interesting. That said, I look forward to a newer iteration of these videos for 2020 and onward. It would be nice to learn how the industry and competition may have evolved in the last five years.