#91 | A Sixth Era of Coffee? Specialty and Sustainability in Historical and Anthropological Perspective | WOC Lectures 2019

#91 | A Sixth Era of Coffee? Specialty and Sustainability in Historical and Anthropological Perspective | WOC Lectures 2019

This session brings together recent work on the history and anthropology of coffee in the context of a discussion about the role of specialty in rebalancing the fundamentals of the market. Professor Jonathan Morris presents an overview of the history of price volatility across the five eras of coffee history he has identified, with some suggestions as to how this might be resolved in a sixth era as producer countries start consuming their own coffee. Sabine Parrish focuses on Brazil where this has already occurred, discussing the overall growth in consumption, and relating this to a specialty culture that has to operate within constraints imposed by Brazil’s primacy in the field of production.

Relevant Links: 

Lecture Handout:  A Sixth Era of Coffee?
Specialty and Sustainability in Historical and Anthropological Perspectives | Jonathan Morris (j.2.morris@herts.ac.uk) Sabine Parrish sabine.parrish@anthro.ox.ac.uk
Situating Sustainability in the Six Eras of Coffee History – Jonathan Morris
Coffee. A Global HistoryReaktion Books, £10.99 use code COFFEE20 for 20% discount | Available US via University of Chicago Press US$19.95 – check Amazon for offers inc e-book.

Distribution of Global Coffee Production 1700-2015 Coffee. A Global History, p.8

Characteristics of the Five Eras (Author’s copyright, Do NOT cite without permission)
Distribution of Global Consumption 2014-2018 calculated from ICO data, April 2019
Specialty Coffee Consumption in Brazil – Sabine Parrish
  • Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee (28% of world total production in 2018), and one of the largest consumers (largest by volume; second-largest per capita).
  • Ethnographic research conducted in São Paulo between June 2017 and July 2018 in order to understand how consumers in a nation typically classed as ‘producing’ engage with specialty coffee as a transnational commodity-specific consumer culture.
  • São Paulo population = 12.18 million people; metropolitan area = 21.57 million people
  • June 2017, 32 specialty shops in São Paulo
    • (= 1 shop per every 386,625 inhabitants)
  • May 2019, 51 specialty shops in São Paulo
    • (= 1 shop per 238,823 inhabitants)
    • For loose reference (based on European Coffee Trip data) there are 61 shops in Berlin, or 1 per every 58,606 people.
  • Key experiential difference in producing countries: much more difficult to obtain international coffees.
  • Flexible definitions of ‘origin’ and where coffees can be from; strategies to partake in international specialty coffee discourse.
    • Origin of raw material does not always outweigh added production input.
    • United States, Italy, and Germany as examples of coffee origins
    • An expanded understanding of what is involved in the work of production (e.g., production not exclusively confined to agricultural work, but instead also encompassing things like roasting and barista-craft) highlights that labor is located in many spaces throughout the supply chain.
  • Valorization
    • From the Portuguese ‘valorização’; first introduced in Brazil in 1906 to stabilize falling coffee prices.
    • What of specialty coffee and the secondary definition of valorize? What else do we assign value to and what are the possibilities when we valorize different forms of labor as part of the production process?