by Chérmelle D. Edwards
By profession he’s a commercial director, but by passion he's a filmmaker. Brandon Loper's "A Film About Coffee" is a visual love letter about the journey of specialty coffee—from the farmers who produce it to the people who consume it. Currently, Loper is screening the film independently, city-by-city (as far as New Zealand) through the boutique San Francisco-based production company, Avocados and Coconuts. The title is direct, however with so many chapters in coffee’s journey, Loper’s documentation of farmers in countries such as Honduras and Rwanda details just how beautifully convoluted the specialty coffee trade is.
The title, "A Film About Coffee" is extremely direct. How did you settle on it?
I was a coffee consumer and somewhat educated about it, but I didn’t realize the nuances of the industry. I put a lot of pressure on myself to name this film, because I knew that I landed on something incredible. We needed to put up the trailer and the title was there, it was a film about coffee. It makes people ask a second question, it's a conversation starter.
What did you know about coffee before the film? And, what was it that made you take this journey?
I’m from Alabama. My relationship with coffee started in college with my girlfriend. She used to drink coffee with hazelnut creamer. I started because of her, with Folgers and I had OJ and donuts with it to get it down—that was my entryway. Then, one of my friends and I were at a truck stop one night and he said, "Just drink it black." And, I haven’t had it any other way since. Eventually, I moved to San Francisco and I discovered the Blue Bottle Kiosk. I went there and became hooked and later learned that I was drinking a natural coffee—that started the process of learning about coffee which eventually led to this film.
What did that natural coffee taste like?
Blueberry cobbler. That was the description and that's what I experienced and it was really good to experience a coffee that tasted like fruit.
So, how did you go from blueberry cobbler coffee to making a film about farmers who were producing beans with this kind of cherry quality?
First, I started a blog called Beans and Grapes; I was into coffee and wine. When I set out to make this film, I didn’t have a script—there was buckets of information that I wanted to gather and scenes I wanted to build. And, the relationship with the farmer and how to think about coffee rose to the top and it became the intention of the film.
I have a young daughter; I’m up at five in the morning. And while I’m doing so, coffee is doing its job and I’m so appreciative of the farmer because of that. It changes every cup of coffee that I drink—I want to think about that person and their story and understand it.
Each screening is a collaboration with local coffee shops in the area. Can you share your decision to involve them in the screening?
The film is a conversation starter. And, I was adamant about coffee being poured before the screening; pour-over, slow drip, espresso but not batch coffee. The movie talks about the craft of coffee and that’s what you get to experience at the screening and then see in the screening of the film. Partnering with local cafes allows people to use their presence as a tool to educate their consumers and gives the people something to rally around locally in addition to the film itself which is self-funded by Avocados and Coconuts.
"A Film About Coffee" screens next in LA, with Allegro Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee on bar and then in Rochester, New York, with Pour Coffee Parlor and Brooklyn, New York with coffee from Allegro Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee. For a full list of national and international screenings, visit the website.
Images courtesy of Avocados & Coconuts