Coffee, Craft and Connection

img_0237.jpgI recently watched Barista, a documentary about coffee-makers competing in the National Barista Championship.

For the competition, baristas have 15 minutes to create 12 cups of coffee and demonstrate their proficiency at pouring shots and blending tastes, and also at creating a great experience for coffee-drinkers. Imagine the most coffee-loving person you know, then double it. These baristas are completely dedicated to the craft of coffee-making. The documentary walks with several competitors through their planning, preparations and their hours of practice leading up to the competition.

I was fascinated by this obsession with both making coffee as well as the art of serving it. They called the competition a “service performance”, because good baristas, much like good bartenders, do more than create good drinks. They create an experience. Isn’t that what we go to a coffee shop for in the first place?

“I can pour all my might into a cup of coffee.”
– Truman

It’s easy to dismiss the coffee craze as some hipster fad, but isn’t there something compelling about someone who’s this obsessed about something so small as a cup of coffee?

For the baristas they interviewed, coffee wasn’t just a drink, it was connection to a larger story. As they prepared their drinks, they told the story of how these particular beans were grown, harvested and roasted to bring this unique taste to the coffee they were preparing that day. They went to great lengths to describe the flavours hidden in the coffee, drawing them out in different ways, accentuating them by adding different fruits and herbs (and even ice cream!) to the experience.

This is the magic of any odd obsession. Whether it’s our work or a hobby, any craft can connect us with something larger. As we learn a craft, we connect with the earth, natural processes, a history, other people, and something we might even call divine.

One of the baristas interviewed recognized that you could pour the same energy and attention that he did with coffee into any craft. And who knows, maybe you’d find a connection with the same kind of deeper, larger story.

What’s your odd obsession?