The Reproduction of Local Taste: Chinese Baristas in the Italian Coffee Bars
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AbstractItalian people commonly have a self-conscious awareness of the national excellence of Italian coffee, as well as certain nationalist sentiments about Italian coffee culture. Coffee bars, where espresso-based coffee is commonly the most central product, have been strongly associated with Italian urban cultures and local neighbourhood identity in everyday life. However, since the economic recession of the new millennium, many neighbourhood coffee bars in Northern Central Italy have been taken over by Chinese immigrants. These Chinese immigrants work mostly as self-employed family entrepreneurs. The Italian public discourses are skeptical about their ability of coffee making and often consider them as a threat to the Italian culture. How can the Chinese baristas, the supposed cultural outsiders, make “good” coffee for the Italian customers, who control cultural legitimacy over the taste of a cup of coffee?

In this paper, I will examine Chinese baristas’ learning processes in both the Italian coffee industry and the specific local context of coffee bars. Data comes from 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork primarily conducted in Bologna, a Northern city of Italy. I will explain how the taste of a cup of coffee is industry-regulated, on the one hand, and closely linked to the barista’s sociality of the local community on the other. I will give details on how coffee industry, the site-specific coffee bar community, the baristas’ embodied sensory skills and their sociality affect the taste of a cup of coffee, made by Chinese baristas. I will argue that Chinese baristas’ acquisition of barista skills is at the same time a process of reproducing the locality and local taste. In this process, local knowledge is fundamental for the immigrant subjects to strategically achieve their economic ends in a local cultural setting.
All Author(s) ListTing Deng
Start Date of Conference28/06/2018
End Date of Conference30/06/2018
Place of ConferenceLEIDEN UNIVERSITY
Country/Region of ConferenceNetherlands
LanguagesEnglish-United States

Last updated on 2018-09-10 at 16:08