Monthly Archives: December 2011

“What all the fuss is about”

My Uncle Steve (also a doctor) suggested I post the abstract of my thesis so he can see “what all the fuss has been about!!” So, here you go, one abstract:

Spilling the Beans: Concepts of Quality in the Speciality Coffee Industry

The coffee industry is a vast, and very complex network spanning the globe, and as the second largest legally traded commodity in the world its production warrants considerable attention. The complicated production process involved from farm to coffee shop gives plenty of scope for value to be added to the commodity through skilled practices and quotidian knowledge; yet this expertise often does not translate into straightforward market economics. The ‘speciality’ coffee industry arose out of a crisis in the existing coffee markets, differentiating gourmet coffees from the conventional commodity, and in doing so, built ideas of quality into the market. However, this concept of quality is far from universal, it is inherently subjective and intangible. This research aims to investigate what is actually meant by ‘quality’, the relationships between the concepts of quality and skill in the speciality coffee industry, and in turn, how quality is generated through the coffee production process.

Just as there is no objective, agreed definition of ‘quality’, there is no globally meaningful definition of ‘speciality’ either: the speciality coffee industry is defined by what it is not, and it is everything deemed ‘not conventional’. This thesis is based on data collected in the form of a multi-site ethnography and involved fieldwork at ‘speciality’ coffee plantations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and at roasting companies and coffee shops in the UK. The research suggests that producing high quality coffee is not restricted to the abilities of the farmers who grow the crop, but that the concept is cumulative process based on assessment, preference and various skills of actors throughout the commodity network. This study also therefore explores how the concept of quality translates across the industry, and whether or not coffee consumers actually demand this level of quality.

Keywords: Coffee, Quality, Speciality, Skill

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Posted by on December 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


The End Is Nigh!!!

Today I submitted my thesis!!!!!!!

It has been an epic four years and two months. The PhD thesis is complete after nearly a week of swearing at it trying to print the damn thing, (which I could only do when Miranda was asleep since she sat on the printer tearing up sheets of paper as they emerged from the machine….). I wasted an entire tree (nearly 1000 sheets of paper) due to a formatting fuck-up that was no fault of my own. And then when I submitted it, I was so excited I completely forgot the fact that it was supposed to have a DVD included in the back of it, so I had to run all the way back up the hill to the pub and collect the damn disk out of the bottom of the pushchair whilst Ol and Liz minded Miranda. DOH. Oh and the girl on the Graduate Research Office Reception Desk recognised me from going to Highworth school together ten or eleven years ago. Freaky.

So, in four years and two months, (including the six months I had “off” for maternity leave) I wrote 82,000 wordsof thesis (not including all the words written on this blog), which turned in to 334 pages, 52MB of PDF file and two copies of printed document both 3.2cm thick, £37.50 in express service binding. Ouch.

The four-year-two-month timescale has meant I have beaten Dr Brian May of Queen (36 years), Jo’s Dad, Dr Land (9 years) as far as I know, my uncle Steve, Dr Morton, and our friend Mike, (M Phillips, MPhil, currently 5 years and counting) .

I have a date for my Viva, which will be 24th January, and with any luck, I will be moving to Canada not long after. So, assuming I don’t have any major corrections or completely fail the whole thing, that will be The End. No more PhD. Wowee!

Handing the damn thing in comes as more of a relief than anything. The immense hassles I had with printing it kind of made its ending rather more bitter and frustrating than I’d hoped. It hasn’t really sunken in that something I’ve been working on  for so long – a book, and something far more than a book – is finally finished and over with. Maybe when the dull realisation that this part of my life is over really dawns on me, I will be more bereft, but for now, it is still a welcome relief. Much celebration has already occurred, meeting with felllow post-grad sufferers and those that have survived the experience and moved on. There was even Pollards Coffee Stout in the pub!! It was an omen, I think.

So, the Viva is in about 5 weeks time, and after that I/we are moving. The Canadian coffee saga has already begun over at The Regina Monologue Blog. Which leaves the question, should I end this blog here? It was supposed to be a research journal… that research has been completed, at least, I’ve done my bit of it for now…..

I think I will leave it open and see if anything exciting happens in the coffee world between now and my viva. Or official graduation or something,

TTFN and “see” you in Canada!
Dr Coffee. (nearly).

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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


Weak coffee is still profitable apparently

Why we’re still lapping up the lattes | Tim Dowling | Comment is free |

Rightfully pointing out that Starbucks coffee is weak in terms of caffeine – but then you are basically paying for the milk and the logo in there.

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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Uncategorized