CAPSULE: CAFFEINATED is a scattershot but loving look at coffee, its growers, its merchants, its coffee bars, its baristas, its fans who get a transcendental experience from coffee, and the exploitation of its producers. We are shown the many cultures who each drink it in their own way. For directors and writers Hanh Nguyen and Vishal Solanki this film was clearly a labor of love of their daily favorite beverage, a sensual plunge into the world of high-quality coffee. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Full disclosure: I am not a coffee drinker. I drink it so rarely that my friends express surprise to see me ever drinking it at all. Those people who have some sort of a deep experience with a cup of coffee are a complete mystery to me. (And I like wine even less.)
Coffee, as if you did not know, is a widely popular beverage made from the roasted seeds of the fruit of the coffee plant. It grows in a tropical climate in the Americas, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa at an altitude of 4000 to 6000 feet above sea level. Being a major source of the slightly addictive stimulant drug caffeine only adds to its popularity. It has some sort of barely understood power over its true fans to prevent a day from starting until the fan has had coffee. CAFFEINATED is a comprehensive survey of coffee and the people who produce it and love it.
CAFFEINATED gives the viewer a short background in the basics of coffee. There are two major species of coffee, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is considered the higher quality product, but Robusta has a stronger flavor. Much of the coffee trade is devoted to the problem of keeping coffee fresh as its flavor deteriorates when it is not fresh. We see some of how coffee is managed and then prepared.
Much as wine has its tastings and there are expert tasters who are trained to recognize the nuances of flavor and texture, coffee has its own tasting sessions. There is discussion of these sessions that are very parallel to wine tastings. The flavor sampling is necessary for buyers choose the quality of coffee to be bought and once brewed the best tasting coffee. We see baristas whose responsibility is to make a gourmet brew of coffee and who are artists in the presentation. (And we repeatedly we get images of one barista who can create an image of a leaf in the coffee suds at the top of the cup, a minor piece of barista art.) One Guatemalan grower complains that he cannot get a good cup of coffee in Guatemalan since all the good stuff is sent to the United States and Europe.
The latter part of the film gets a little more focused and takes a closer look at coffee growing and buying and its possibly contradictory agendas. Coffee production ought to be sustainable. It should be organic and avoid use of unnatural chemicals in its production. Though coffee is a high profit item in much of the world, little of those profits go back to the growers. There are fair trade standards to help insure that the producers get a fair share. In addition, there is the Rain Forest Alliance that works to conserve biodiversity.
CAFFEINATED is a look at the human effort, talent, and technology that goes into what may well be one of the world's favorite beverages. I rate this film +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. CAFFEINATED opened Tuesday, July 14 on iTunes, Amazon, googleplay, Xbox, vudu and all major cable providers including Time Warner, Comcast, directv and more.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2442488/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/caffeinated/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper