A short “filmette” that came out of this year’s SCAA Symposium, “This is Milk” completely flips the worlds of coffee and milk, toeing the line between ironic hilarity and serious issues related to drink quality and sustainable production.
A collaboration between SCAA Symposium Director Peter Giuliano, Symposium speaker Sarah Dooley and filmmaker Nathan Slabaugh, the video recalls countless “coffee origin” videos that use dramatic music, meditative interviews and rich imagery of coffee farming and production.
Dooley, the star of the film, travels to Pure Eire Dairy in Othello, Wash., for her “trip to origin,” saying things like, “When I travel to origin, I’m not only looking for the best product ever, but I’m also looking for a product that transcends from hand to hand — and in the sense of milk, from hand to udder to cup.”
She then watches a cow relieve its bowels and rolls the dung through her fingers, noting the fresh smell of grass. Spoiler alert: The film’s punchline is a brilliant twist — a carefully and sustainably sourced shot of milk is expertly steamed and handed to the customer, who then sloshes in some generic coffee on a messy condiment stand.
But this is not pure irony. Despite the fact that milk is a major component in some 30 percent of coffee drinks sold, shops that buy it based on flavor differentiation or sustainable sourcing are few and far between. In thinking about the video, Giuliano tells Daily Coffee News, “We were talking about it, and remarked on how ironic it was that roasters would go to such great lengths to visit coffee farms, deal directly with coffee producers, work relentlessly on coffee quality, and care about all the details, but miss out on that process with their dairy farmers.”
(Side note: Laila Ghambari of Cherry Street Coffee in Seattle used Pure Eire Dairy in a cappuccino drink during her United States Barista Championship winning routine.)
Giuliano says, to his surprise, the milk seminar at Symposium (a full recap is here) was actually quite divisive.
“Many people, including some coffee farmers and coffee buyers, told me it was the highlight of their Symposium, and it was a nice surprise to go into such detail of a product that they take for granted,” Giuliano says. “Others didn’t have any interest at all, and wished we hadn’t done it. Amazing, right? I think this shows that we’re still conflicted in the coffee world about our relationship with milk.”