While sponsored content can frequently look like blatant advertising, there are some companies and brands that take an ingeniously creative approach to building awareness of the products they offer. One practitioner of that approach is New York’s Birch Coffee, who previously mixed enhanced brand awareness with fascinating in-depth conversations on their first web series, STAY REGULAR.

Now, the forces behind STAY REGULAR –  actor/writer/director Benjamin Kanes (BIRDMAN) and Birch Coffee co-founders Jeremy Lyman and Paul Schlader – combine their love of coffee and cinema into the new BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT. Co-produced by Kanes, Lyman and Schlader, BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT is perhaps the most unique “how-to“ web series ever conceived.

Rather than offering typical demonstrations of how to brew Birch‘s gourmet coffee for yourself at home, each episode of the series does so by utilizing an ensemble of actors to present such demonstrations in an innovative style. Introduced by the elegant on-camera host Milos Stravinsky (played by Lyman), the series’ first 4 episodes superbly integrate coffee-making instruction with the storytelling techniques of popular movie genres: film noir, documentary, animation and silent-era comedy.

All current episodes of the show are online via Birch Coffee’s YouTube channel (see additional links below), accompanied by recipes for coffees featured in each episode; recipes that also appear in full on-screen after BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT’s closing credits. More of those mixes are in the works, should the early episodes hit the spot with viewers. Says Kanes: “If the show is received well, we have 8 or so more brewing/film genre combos we’d like to try out. So keep watching!”

31503785_2493554784202892_3870361443228450816_nAs Kanes reveals, the science of matching a specific movie type with a specific way to make one of Birch’s coffees on BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT is one of the exciting aspects of creating an episode of the series.

“We’ve (Kanes, Lyman and Schlader) kicked around a lot of ideas – sci-fi, reality talent show, musical, (etc.) The key is in finding the right combination of genre and brewing method that allows us a vehicle to demonstrate the brew, without getting too formulaic or anything. There are so many fun directions we can go.”

After a few seasons of filming and distributing STAY REGULAR’s one-on-one chats inside Birch Coffee’s New York store, Kanes, Lyman and Schlader began to examine the possibilities of mixing their talents for storytelling with Birch‘s efforts to bring its gourmet coffee products to home consumers via its new subscription-based outlet. (Link below.)

During one of their many creative meetings, the concept for BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT began to percolate. (Seriously – no pun intended.)  “I think we were on a video conference call and (we) just started talking about how your typical brewing video is so boring and disengaging,” adds Kanes. “We started simply talking about things we enjoy and since we’re all big fans of film, the conversation just naturally went in that direction.”

Teaching people how to make Birch Coffee’s range of blends for themselves was a significant part of the filmmakers‘ job; a task that clearly had to be done in an entertaining fashion. “We knew we needed to do something instructional around brewing – particularly to share with folks taking advantage of Birch’s coffee subscription service,” Kanes recalls.



Ever the imaginative types, BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT’s creators realized that they needed to make their presentation of coffee making lessons more unconventional than most.

“…We also knew we needed to make it (the series) different and more interesting than any of the other how-to-brew type videos already out there. We decided (that) a free and entertaining tutorial in proper brewing methods was something we wanted to share.”

3 of the show’s live-action episodes are influenced by several classic Hollywood films and film icons. “(The episode) ‘A Silent Drip’ was inspired in part by Charlie Chaplin,” says Kanes. “’French Press Noir’ came from a deep love of all things Bogart and Bacall, and some specific films like TOUCH OF EVIL, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, KEY LARGO, ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT, etc. ‘Chemex: The Heat Within’ has one character (I’ll leave it to you to guess which one) inspired by, like, every teamster I ever worked with on the larger scale films and TV shows I’ve done.”

BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT’s fourth episode can arguably be called its most imaginative. Featuring the voices of Lyman, Schlader, Peri Schaeffer and series co-writer/co-producer Robin Rose Singer, “How To Brew A Pour Over” pays impressive tribute to the memorable cartoons of Hanna-Barbera (makers of THE FLINTSTONES, THE JETSONS, and SCOOBY-DOO, among other classics), while colorfully demonstrating how to make Birch’s Pour Over coffee for yourself. Kanes’ memories of the production are vivid.

“The animated episode was a lot of fun to create,” he says. “The process is very different from filming live actors. We wrote the script first and had our amazing animator (who also did the opening/closing sequence credits for the other episodes) do some spec artwork. Once we liked the feel and style of the artwork, which was always intended to be a sort of old-school Hanna-Barbera homage, like THE FLINTSTONES, or something, we revised the script and recorded the voiceover(s). I have some ridiculous outtakes from that, (which) will probably find their way to a blooper reel one day!”

How to Brew a Pour Over A Birch Coffee CartoonWith the actors’ audio recorded and animation prepared, the challenging part of doing an animated film lay ahead: putting both elements together in perfect unison.

“Scott (O’Banion, the animator) and I discussed direction and some key elements that were important to me and Birch to include, and he built the animation around the voiceover(s). It was really fun,” remembers Kanes. “There will probably be more cartoons featuring the same style and characters coming down the line, though not necessarily as part of this same brewing methods series.”

As entertaining as each episode of BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT is, Kanes stresses that the reason for its existence is as beneficial to java junkies and cinephiles as it is to Birch Coffee itself. “Besides creating a really fun and unique new type of content to engage with both coffee and indie film fans, the specific goal is to promote Birch Coffee’s coffee subscriptions,” he says. “It’s a brilliant and convenient service; a wonderful way to have specialty coffee shop quality coffee in your own home, every day.”

While making that coffee can be an overwhelming process for the beginner, Kanes feels that viewers of BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT won’t feel overwhelmed when they see how to brew Birch’s coffees as demonstrated in the series. “We don’t overdo the brew method with a lot of fuss. We try to keep it user friendly, but still high quality. The whole idea is for people to easily be able to do this at home. We also added instruction in writing for people who may wish to pause the video and actually use it as it is meant to be used.”

L-R: BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT co-producers Benjamin Kanes and Jeremy Lyman, in character as the series' elegant emcee Milos Stravinsky.

L-R: BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT co-producers Benjamin Kanes and Jeremy Lyman, the latter in character as the series’ elegant emcee Milos Stravinsky.

Keeping things simple on the casting side, BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT’s creators established the show’s own repertory company.

Explains Kanes: “…Jeremy and Paul were always intending to play prominent roles in each (episode). Beyond that, we loved the idea of creating a sort of ensemble cast for the series, similar to AMERICAN HORROR STORY, or perhaps more similar to SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. So you’ll probably see some of the same folks in future episodes. We also have some special guests planned for the future, that you’ll just have to wait for.”

Though it only took a day to shoot the first 3 episodes of the series, the actual process of making each episode had some interesting complications. “Our biggest challenge (in making BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT) was simply not laughing while we were rolling,” Kanes remembers. “We had a really fun time creating these. There are a couple cars passing by outside the window during “A Silent Drip”, (but) we decided we could live with it in the end of the day. I think there may have even been a UPS truck fly by at a certain point.”

Kanes, Lyman and Schlader passionately dedicate themselves to sharing captivating content – and great coffee – through BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT and Birch Coffee itself. “We love our jobs and love the process of creating,” Kanes says. “We don’t want people to just visit our site to buy coffee. We want people to have a reason to return and (to) be continually engaged in our site’s content. We hope that people enjoy engaging in what we enjoy creating.”

(NOTE: The show’s producers say that BIRCH BREWMASTERS PRESENT will be closed-captioned.)

To find out more on Birch Coffee’s new subscription service, visit:


YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNsF3-Mh3CMzdPwYpOsotww