There is no place and time to enjoy / taste a coffee in its various and diverse forms. This is strange because, despite being the most popular drink in the world and probably the most studied, it is difficult to establish an ideal consumption without prejudices and arrogant certainties on the basis of the contradictory documentation. But now … let’s have a coffee and savour some sequences!
We need one to get to know it better, but above all to realize that treating coffee as a beverage is an understatement. This dark and fragrant drink, characterises every aspect of life and culture and we find it with Niko in A Coffee in Berlin (2012, by J. O. Gerster), who expresses the object of his desire with a coffee, but that funnily he is not able to obtain at the end of the day.

Cinema have always been considered the seventh art because – as also suggested by A. Kurosawa – it has its own characteristics in literature, it has its own characteristics in theatre, it has a philosophical aspect and attributes marked by painting, writing and music.

Now, in dealing with the theme of this article – which is coffee – we can proof-test the truth of what I have just written!

In 1734, J. Sebastian Bach wrote the Coffee Cantata, in which the protagonist claims the right to tasting and, arousing the grievances of his father, adds this right as one of the conditions to getting married. In 1750, Carlo Goldoni introduced coffee to the theatre, by writing The Coffee Shop. And the abbot P. Chiari makes it the protagonist of the comic drama The Country Coffee. In the historic Cinderella by Rossini in 1817, coffee is a vehicle for tenderness, and is served by the protagonist to Alidoro for breakfast, but it then becomes the object of reproach by the sisters Clorinda and Thisbe.

Let’s now take a look at the cinema… 

In its first decade, the film industry found a never-ending amount of legends to bring to the screen during the era of the Far West, and with them the food eaten by cowboys. Why am I talking about this? Because beans, meat, sourdough and stews are the characteristic elements of the time, but our protagonist was too: coffee.
It represented a vehicle of sociability that was still immature and cold, often consumed very strong, and drunk in small sips and slowly (because it was boiling hot, Jubal, 1956 D. Daves), unlike whiskey that was drunk in one gulp (!).

Coffee represents a hero’s moment of relax. At dusk, they sit around the fire, as if to delineate a sudden dawn of society, and they savour their steaming hot drink until they through discrete quantities onto the fire to put it out.
In other films it is consumed at dawn (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), or to get over a hangover (Stagecoach), and more … There’s always someone who gets away with a cup in hand (Seven Men From Now, Westbound), or the hero of the West finds comfort from his coffee to help with his perpetual loneliness.
The coffee was prepared by boiling a pound of powder in a little boiling water, and to test it a horseshoe was thrown in. If it did not float then more dust was needed.
Coffee also becomes a bargaining chip for Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves.

Coffee is still the ever-present drink-symbol that marks the rhythm of the day, it gives breaks at work, it conveys hospitality but at the same time it is an instrument of great concepts of life.

Going back to the film A Coffee in Berlin (2012, J. O. Gerster), it is the amusing and ironic diary – punctuated by the sounds of jazz – of Niko’s ever-changing moods. Niko, the main character, goes from scene to scene, from situation to situation, with the vain desire for a decent cup of coffee in a busy and sad city, as if it was almost impossible to find. The is not the reality at all, in fact, these days most people start the day with a cup of coffee at a suitable price! Here, a cup of coffee is the only thing that Niko is certain about while all the other situations in his life are uncertain.


Dietary Information:

1 – Healthy people can drink up to 3 cups of coffee a day. Best if drunk after a meal rather than on an empty stomach

2 – Cardiologists now allow coffee also for hypertension: 1-2 cups of coffee a day, advising an “Arabica” blend rather than a robust one as it has a much lower level of caffeine.

3 – The scientific community has more or less reached the opinion that the daily amount of caffeine intake should be less than 300 mg, which is about 3 cups of coffee. Be careful not to add cappuccinos (70-80 mg of caffeine) or a can of coke (35-50 mg of caffeine), or 30-40 mg of caffeine hidden in a 60 g bar of chocolate!


Letizia Saturni



Buy the film

Buy the recommended book

"A Coffee in Berlin"A film by Jan Ole Gerster with Inga Birkenfeld, Martin Brambach, Michael Gwisdek. Germany, 2012

"Reel Food: Essays on Food and Film" by Anne L. Bower

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