Accepted Paper:

Doing 'good coffee'? Explorations on the sociomateriality of taste in the specialty coffee market  

Author:

Derly Yohanna Sanchez Vargas (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the sociomaterial entanglements that configure some coffees as 'speciality'. I describe such process by analysing the training of cuppers and baristas and the production of speciality varietals in coffee farms in Colombia.

Paper long abstract:

Series of coffee market crises have put this commodity in a constant process of reinvention. Standardisation, the embrace of sustainability and the exploration of high quality varietals have promised better value for producers and the business chain. In recent years, one of the most dynamic sectors in coffee production has been specialty coffees. It is a range of high quality varietals that offer very specific tastes and a particular experience to the coffee consumer. Specialty coffee is an assemblage that includes coffee varietals and different kinds of material work: farming, picking, cupping, roasting and coffee preparations. The distinction of some varieties as specialty relies on an assemblage of roasting and production technologies, coffee genomics and patterns of taste and flavour. Thus, these elements support the taste experience and the networks of marketing and consumption. This paper explores the sociomaterial entanglements that configure some coffees as 'speciality' looking at the nature-cultures of taste and its importance in the devising of specialty coffee market. As Shapin notes (2016) taste and sensory techniques involve a transformation of 'soft' subjective judgments into 'hard' objective descriptions and evaluations. I describe such process by analysing the training of cuppers and baristas and the production of speciality varietals in coffee farms in Colombia. I show how taste and good coffee taste is a materialisation of market devices, professional work and 'embodied tuning'.

Panel C28
Meetings over and around food