Making Better Coffee: How Maya Farmers and Third Wave Tastemakers Create Value (Paperback)

Making Better Coffee: How Maya Farmers and Third Wave Tastemakers Create Value By Edward F. Fischer Cover Image
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An anthropologist uncovers how "great coffee" depends not just on taste, but also on a complex system of values worked out among farmers, roasters, and consumers.

What justifies the steep prices commanded by small-batch, high-end Third Wave coffees? Making Better Coffee explores this question, looking at highland coffee farmers in Guatemala and their relationship to the trends that dictate what makes "great coffee." Traders stress material conditions of terroir and botany, but just as important are the social, moral, and political values that farmers, roasters, and consumers attach to the beans.
In the late nineteenth century, Maya farmers were forced to work on the large plantations that colonized their ancestral lands. The international coffee market shifted in the 1990s, creating demand for high-altitude varietals—plants suited to the mountains where the Maya had been displaced. Edward F. Fischer connects the quest for quality among U.S. tastemakers to the lives and desires of Maya producers, showing how profits are made by artfully combining coffee's material and symbolic attributes. The result is a complex story of terroir and taste, quality and craft, justice and necessity, worth and value.

About the Author

Edward F. Fischer is Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, where he also directs the Institute for Coffee Studies. He has authored and edited several books, most recently The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing.

Praise For…

"Fischer's insightful new book. . . .illustrates in great detail…how rarely that increased value benefits Maya farmers directly."
— Economic Botanist

"Making Better Coffee is an engaging exploration of the value and values that surround coffee. . . .This book will be very useful for researchers, providing an excellent review of the literature. It could be used in graduate or advanced undergraduate classes."
— FoodAnthropology

"A captivating and enlightening journey that delves into the intricate and multifaceted relationship between coffee production and its enjoyment by consumers."
— Exertions

"Making Better Coffee offers an unabashedly practical look at real-world market spaces that impact the lives of millions of people around the world. . . . [L]earning more about and from an industry that is simultaneously functional and dysfunctional is more than desirable. It should be mandatory."
— Administrative Science Quarterly

"A compelling case study of our current stage of capitalism in which controlling the means of production no longer guarantees maximum accumulation. . . . Fischer’s work demonstrates that when we make better coffee, it is not necessarily better for everyone."
— Gastronomica

Product Details
ISBN: 9780520386969
ISBN-10: 0520386965
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: September 6th, 2022
Pages: 306
Language: English