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Review: The Coffee Man

Ros Hull

This film explores the world of specialty coffee, from the farm to cup, through the eyes of Sasa Sestic and looks at what makes this man unique within an industry full of exceptional individuals. Film Promotion

This film had its premiere at Palace Electric but if you missed it, go to the film promotion site Tugg (above) and you can organise a screening. It is well worth seeing.

I love films that illustrate the indomitability of the human spirit, as this does. I love films where the little guy wins through, as Sasa does. And I love, love, love coffee. So I guess I am the target audience for this film. However, I don’t find a lot of documentaries relaxing or enjoyable to watch – and when the press kit started with this:

“It’s 4.30 am in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. The sun is still hours from rising, but Sasa Sestic is excited. Like a small child, dancing on the spot…”

I was put off.

Please don’t let yourself fall into the same trap because this doco is frankly charming.

Employing lots of comments by Sasa’s circle, animations and explanations by his 12-year-old daughter and telling an amazing story, it captured my attention for the whole running time. I particularly enjoyed the mentoring sequences with the previous world barista champion, Hidenori Izaki of Japan.

Sasa is Canberran by choice (even if it was his parents’ choice) and Bosnian by birth. His journey covers war torn countries both in his youth and in his quest for the perfect bean and the film culminates in his trip to the US, where he competes for the title of the world’s best barista.

Sasa is Canberran, in that most Canberran of industries – the small coffee roaster and boutique coffee shop. His company, ONA Coffee, stands out amongst others not only for its emphasis on fair trade, but for its almost obsessive attention to the whole process from farming, through drying, roasting and brewing.

As a Canberran, Sasa has also done something that gives me a real sense of schadenfreude (def: pleasure derived from the misfortune of others). He has beaten the best in the world (including those coffee snobs in Sydney and Melbourne) and has now placed our city on that most fickle of radars – the coffee snob travel itinerary.

His story is fascinating, complex and builds well throughout the film. His crew and family are so likeable and so local to us that this really is a film of our city.


Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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