Home > Uncategorized > Gentle but Deep Politics and the Perfect Coffee

Gentle but Deep Politics and the Perfect Coffee

Strongly recommended is this amateur documentary my wife just happened to find on the Netflix instant viewing.   Amy Ferraris does a gentle version of Michael Moore in this no-frills but deep substance film which explores the pleasures and histories of espresso as well as the politics of coffee, much of the film revolving around a conflict between the Starbucks Corporation and a coffee house owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a master at his craft and yet an inadvertent adversary to a large corporation perhaps too protective of a trademark.

Ferraris has some definite opinions, but laces them in beautiful narrative prose with refreshing balance, even managing to humanize the faceless in Starbucks as they refuse her interviews and clearly play the role of bully.  She deals with a depressing subject of the corporatization of coffee and homogenization of culture, but leaves you with hope in the “third wave” coffee movement.

And now I’m in search of the perfect cappuccino in Humboldt County, by her criteria.

Some excerpts from a little known soft-sell film which deserves a lot of attention.  To paraphrase the last lines of the movie, it’s great to have a little taste from someone who will serve you a cup with “knowledge, passion, and integrity – it was delicious.”

Her website, which includes some of her favorite coffee spots in the Bay Area where she lives.

  1. Gil Yule
    July 21, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I’m convinced. I watched the trailer and have added it to the queue. It’s about more than coffee.

  2. Tablebluffin
    July 21, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Brio and Loleta Bakery are the best I have found so far for a cappuccino.

  3. Anonymous
    July 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Wow ! This was so enlightening ! This outstanding, terrific, truth seeking journalist has come to question herself, her community, her country over their apporach to capacino !!!?? And in the end this 33 year old capacino drinker is just an elitist fraud ! She doesn’t like Starbucks because it’s an evil corporation, because they’ve become successfull! How dare they. Start out as a little coffee joint and then be so successful they have shops all over America adn in South America, Europe, and beyond. Oh No how dare they be successful ! Well her country is still America and if she doesn’t like Starbucks she doesn’t have to go their and buy their un artistic capacinos! But I bet she has, more than once too.

    It says something for you too for posting this drivel of a video clip.

  4. Plain Jane
    July 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Anonymous’ rant shows that she is clearly unAmerican because she doesn’t want anything posted with which she disagrees. It is my opinion, based admittedly on only one sample on I-5 in a rainstorm, that Starbucks is mediocre (at best) and appeals to people who have had their taste buds burned out by Tasters Choice and couldn’t tell the difference between a good cup of coffee and a cup of cow piss.

  5. jr
    July 21, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I’m remembering the article that ran in the S.F. Chronicle in the mid 60s “City Residents Forced to Drink Swill” about how bad coffee was in the city’s restaurants. This was in the day when Hills Brothers, MJB and Folger’s were the coffees featured in most establishments and Graffeo was just a niche roaster in North Beach. Starbuck’s is overrated, and Peet’s is heading in that direction, but still provides some of the best coffee anywhere which is a tribute to the late Alfred Peet. But mostly, commercially brewed coffee is basically brown water. I am impressed with Thanksgiving Coffee Company’s Noyo Harbor roast. Extremely flavorful. Available in bulk at both Co-Ops.

  6. Eric Kirk
    July 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

    jr – The “three waves” she refers to begin with the Maxwell House, Folgers marketing. Apparently there was some sort of lack of good beans because of freezes during the 1950s, so Maxwell House bought up massive amounts of the cheap beans and made a fortune pushing the canned coffee. When Starbucks came around on the mass scale it reintroduced real coffee, which accounts for the statement in the film that it is “the worst of the best coffee.” Her hope is that it’s generate an appetite for the good stuff, and that more Americans will eventually learn about what a real cappuccino is.

    Thing is, her criteria, based on what she experienced in Italy when she was younger, also excludes many independent coffee houses. The bubbles are too big course, and it’s just dropped on top of the coffee rather than artfully blended in. I realized that I may never have tried a cappuccino which is authentic in her eyes. I’ve never really liked them all that much. So I want to find an “authentic” one and give it a try.

  7. Eric Kirk
    July 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Oh, and I also learned that the dark roast experience I’ve enjoyed all these years might have me missing out on some of the subtle offerings of lighter beans. The Double Shot guy explained that when you get beans which are glistening, the oils actually go rancid and change the flavor. All of the sudden, I feel like a chump drinking Merlot (after seeing Sideways I was too ashamed).

    Anyway, anonymous 9:31, you’re making some huge assumptions about what you think the film is about. I think even you might be impressed if you watched it through.

  8. Plain Jane
    July 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

    My favorite coffee is Kona Kick Ass, but it’s a rare treat due to price. Humboldt Bay, Thanksgiving and Kinetic are all good. The Hideaway in Petrolia served my first cup of fresh ground coffee (a Gold Rush french roast) and I still buy GR’s Blueberry Cafe on occasion but no longer care for french roast. Gold Rush is my favorite drive-up coffee outlet.

  9. Plain Jane
    July 21, 2012 at 11:10 am

    The darker the roast, the lower the caffeine, Eric. But probably the worst mistake you can make with a cup of coffee is too much water leaching the oils and acids into your cup. Better to use less hot water to brew and then adding hot water to your cup if its too strong.

  10. Eric Kirk
    July 21, 2012 at 11:11 am

    But PJ, do any of them make a “perfect” cappuccino where the bubbles in the milk are two small to be visible?

  11. Plain Jane
    July 21, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I don’t rate coffee on how beautiful it is but on how wonderful it smells and tastes, but I make a french press coffee with steamed half and half to rival any of those artsy fartsy machine coffees.

  12. Eric Kirk
    July 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Ahh. She says it has to be whole milk, or the proteins don’t hold the foam right. She is also obsessed with taste, though the appearance is certainly a factor.

    Anyway, she probably does have an “elitist” taste in coffee. Until she came across the Double Shot, she was convinced that there wasn’t a decent cappuccino to be found in American, though I wonder if it isn’t mostly wry ironic humor in her narrative.

    These are the places in the US she’s found and like, from her website:



    Sant’Eustachio, Rome, Italy

    DoubleShot Coffee, Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco, California

    Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago, Illinois

    Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Portland, Oregon

    Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco, California

    PT’s Coffee, Topeka, Kansas

    Terroir Select Coffees

    Blue Bottle Coffee Co., Oakland, California

    Counter Culture

  13. Plain Jane
    July 22, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I think it “has to be whole milk” means not low or no fat. Steamed half and half is like hot whipped cream. You can’t see the bubbles.

  14. Plain Jane
    July 22, 2012 at 8:02 am

    i’d take a picture of this beautiful cup of coffee, but still couldn’t post it.

  15. High Finance
    July 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I used to love a good Cafe’ Mocha or a cappuccino.

    Then a wet blanket told me to google the number of calories they have. I have not had one since.

    A piece of me died that day.

  16. Eric Kirk
    July 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    It’s a small glass of milk. How many calories can it have?

  17. Thirdeye
    July 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    When Starbucks was coming to Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, everyone was up in arms about how it would affect Peet’s a couple of blocks away. Then the Peet’s baristas found out how much better Starbuck’s paid and put in applications at Starbuck’s.

  18. Anonymous
    July 23, 2012 at 11:39 am

    “Plaine Jane” talking about someone else being “anonymous” ?! How do you spell Hypocrite Jane ?!

    It is somewhat amazing that “Starbucks” has done so well if it is such bad coffee !? How can that be??

  19. Plain Jane
    July 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

    So show me where I have ever been critical of people posting anonymously 11:39. I have always defended the right of everyone to post anonymously. Your functional illiteracy is showing and you didn’t even post in the appropriate thread. How do you spell “moran?”

  20. Plain Jane
    July 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    McDonald’s sells the most burgers but few people would make the argument that it’s because they are good.

  21. Eric Kirk
    August 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Actually, a lot of people would make that argument. Certainly many kids.

  22. Labtech
    August 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Actually, most of the “dark” coffees are badly burnt. If you value taste, order the lightest coffee.

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