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Kate Nash charms in Coffee Wars

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July 21, 2023

Step aside, cupcakes. Storage? Who cares? Sayonara, shipping—there’s a new Wars to watch, one that’s more futuristic than even those set in a galaxy far, far away.

This spring, Coffee Wars debuted on streaming platforms across the U.S. and Canada. The full-length film tells the story of Jo, the vegan owner of an indie coffeeshop who sets out to prove that non-dairy coffee can compete with the industry’s biggest players. In the face of skepticism (and financial woes), Jo idealistically enters the World Barista Championship, where she and her shop’s team of rag-tag employees go up against “full fat, full cream” rivals in coffee’s biggest showdown.

A fresh portrayal of vegans in pop culture

In many ways, Kate Nash’s Jo is the face of the future. And despite her green hair, her zaniness, and her naivete, it’s still refreshing to see a vegan protagonist whose identity and values are not the butt of the joke. Jo’s veganism is not played for laughs but played for plot—it’s her commitment to cruelty-free lattes that drives her to enter the barista competition in the first place, and it’s what inspires her employees to place their trust in her. Most movie producers shy away from the V-word, but Coffee Wars flips pop culture’s go-to portrayal by embracing vegan people (and vegan coffee!) as legitimate, deserving, and worth getting to know.

Life imitates art imitates life

The film couldn’t be more timely. In fact, some might say the film was downright prescient, given that it was written months before the SCA—the global trade association who’s the authority on all things coffee—officially changed competition rules to allow for plant-based milks. Long a holdout, the infamously traditional Association finally relented in 2023 to growing pressure and acknowledged the coffee industry’s changing milkscape. None too soon, either. The floodgates have opened, and plantmilk is the new normal.

In January, Planet Oat became the new sponsor of Girl Scout cookies. In March, the London Coffee Festival named plantmilk company Alpro as its major sponsor. In May, popular chain Flash Coffee joined the likes of Stumptown, Blue Bottle, and Clean in announcing that 24 coffee shop locations would now serve oatmilk by default. That makes nearly a dozen DefaultVeg coffee shop brands, with cow’s milk served only when requested.

Coffee Wars flips norms from beginning to end, from its conception to its consumption—and the world is better for it. Ethically-produced movies are the future of film, likable heroines are the future of vegan representation, and non-dairy lattes are the future of barista competitions. A toast: to plant-based coffees. May your oatmilk froth perfectly and your reign be long. Cheers!

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