In Rock Baijnauth’s documentary “Barista,” finalists at the 2013 United States Barista Championship, held in Boston, perform feats of skill and artistry that go light years beyond swirling foam in the shape of a heart. The five baristas featured in the film have 15 minutes to prepare flawless coffee beverages — espresso, cappuccino, and a signature drink of their own creation — for a panel of judges who critique everything from taste to timing to how passionately the contestants communicate about the coffee. As for the signature drinks, don’t imagine a skinny hazelnut latte, but rather a snifter of coffee distilled to its clear essence.
Baijnauth, 36, of Los Angeles, wanted to tell the story of baristas and craft coffee after recognizing how much the culture has in common with wine and cocktails. “Coffee is something that is so fascinating. The competition is this evolution of the craft to see how good you can be at it now,” the director says.