by Kevin Sinnott
Coffee has never been successful on TV. We keep trying, but thus far, I think it’s fair to say that the beverage coffee just doesn’t translate well to the screen. Why I’m not sure, having a foot in both subjects, as a producer for much of my adult life, and a coffee lover and writer. I’ve been to all the major cable TV networks and heard the same responses when I brought them coffee concepts. The Food Network told me flat out that “liquids don’t do well at Food” – they always call it Food. When coffee is featured, it seems to get short shrift from the so-called celebrity chefs. I’ve never seen Rachel Ray do coffee. Emeril looked sheepish using a press pot, with none of his usual aplomb. Even Alton Brown, who I honestly expected to apply his OCD-style, seemed positively casual in his segment – and it was a segment, not a show. That says a lot to a producer.
Just so you’re not thinking I’m calling out my colleagues and leaving myself out, my own Coffee Brewing Secrets DVD, features editor Ken Davids, George Howell, Oren Bloostein, Christy Thorns, Donald Schoenholt and Erna Knutsen both doing hands-on tutorials demonstrating their favorite methods and interviewed about the various other aspects such as storage, grinding, freshness. Any coffee magazine that featured an equivalent cast list and that scope of information would be a sell-out issue. Imagine having this “A” list of coffee icons at your house telling you step-by-step how to brew with each brewer. It sells a couple of copies a month on Amazon. It’s a coffee success, but to date, a market failure. My backers are still asking when they’ll start seeing a return. Hopefully, they won’t call after reading this article.
Just over a year ago, my son told me of a project his college club, Students in Free Enterprise or SIFE, was involved in, where they were in a business competition. They were going to Guatemala to visit a coffee cooperative that supposedly offered growers the best of everything. He’s mentioned my name and my interest in coffee to his professors. Meanwhile, a second mention from a local coffee roaster sealed the deal for the professors, who wanted to see me and brainstorm if I could help with their project. The project was of interest, but it wasn’t until my wife Patricia suggested I produce a video that my enthusiasm rose.
Well, the series is completed. It’s running at www.missioncoffeecan.com and we’ve been uploading a ten minute episode per week. There are currently 14 episodes. The show has several aspects of it that I think are uniquely applied to make the coffee subject hopefully finally achieve viewer success.
First, it is a reality show, a true documentary. The students are real, we didn’t even cast them, although we did get lucky, as they are charming. While a coffee obsessive will find much to see and learn about coffee, it’s wrapped around a personal interest plot of the students competing in a national (worldwide really) event. It’s as much about business as coffee, and as much about the emerging third world where it’s grown as about the culture where it is consumed.
There are the first-choice episodes to attract the coffee connoisseur. While, as a producer, my favorite episode is “all of ‘em”, there are some standout moments if you just want to sample highlights and go back for the story and watch it full, which of course is out intention for the general viewer.
But, before I list episodes and their coffee-centered blurbs, let me say there are certain historic moments in art, where products have achieved their rightful place. Sideways is a cinematic success about wine. MTV, after years of Hollywood’s misunderstanding (and outright dislike) finally made rock music work on television.
Maybe www.missioncoffeecan.com will be a move towards coffee’s success as a web series.
Here’s a rundown, with a quick guide to the best coffee-related scenes, like dog earing a magazine to mark the articles you want to read first.