5 Comparing cultures of coffee consumption
As you learnt in the coffee quiz, ordering a cappuccino in Italy after 11 a.m. can be difficult. Much more popular in Italy is the small, short coffee drink called espresso. But why has Italy’s coffee culture developed in such a different way from that in the UK, where cappuccinos and lingering visits to coffee shops are common? The second series of films on this course, The Cultures of Coffee Consumption, will help you identify some of the key differences between the coffee shop cultures in Italy and the UK, as well as other parts of the world.
Now watch the first extract of the film which explores the differences between coffee consumption in Italy and the UK. A blank table has been provided to help you to compare coffee cultures in Italy and the UK. Don’t be concerned if some boxes are more difficult to fill in than others – this is the nature of comparison and the social world. The forces shaping the development of coffee cultures in the two countries will inevitably be different with certain elements being more important in one country than another.
Comparing the cultures of coffee consumption in Italy and the UK
|What is the most popular style of coffee beverage?||Espresso||Milky coffee drinks|
|How do consumers choose their coffee shop?||Italian consumers are not very brand conscious but instead tend to choose a coffee shop that is local to them and where they think they will have a nice social experience.||Consumers in the UK commonly choose coffee shops on the basis of the brand of retailer. For example, Professor Morris asks, ‘Am I a Costa person or a Starbucks person?’ Other important factors are the availability of Wi-Fi and a space where people can linger.|
|What does the price of a cup of coffee include?||Italians pay very little for their coffee (around €1) and no service is included in this drink. Many Italians drink their coffee quickly at the bar.||According to Professor Morris, the price of coffee in a coffee shop includes ‘rent for time’, referring to how UK consumers use coffee shops as a place to relax and work in.|
|What reasons are given for the development of a distinctive coffee culture?||The Italian government regulated the price of coffee following the First World War and, although this regulation is no longer enforced, it shaped the development of the coffee shop business. Consumers only expect to pay a small price for a cup of coffee and do not pay for any extras such as service charges or ‘rent for time’. The US/UK-style coffee shop business model is not suited to this coffee drinking culture.||The rise of self-autonomous working practices and the digital revolution are closely linked to the rise of coffee shops in the UK. The milky coffee that takes time to drink is well suited to consumers who want to work away from the office and check their emails using the free Wi-Fi provided by the shop.|
As you will have realised from comparing coffee cultures in Italy and the UK, there are a range of factors that influence how coffee drinking is experienced in different countries. Now watch the second extract from the film, The Cultures of Coffee Consumption, and write down some of the features of coffee cultures in the other countries that are mentioned. What do you notice about these countries’ coffee cultures? How are they different from your own?
The coffee drinking cultures of four other countries were described in this video. Here are some of the points you may have picked out:
- Switzerland is home to the large multinational company Nestlé, and this influences the type of coffee that Swiss people are used to drinking (for example, instant coffee and Nespresso pods).
- In France, legislation prohibiting smoking in public places has had a detrimental effect on coffee shops. To encourage consumers to use coffee shops again, cafe owners have agreed to charge a minimal amount for a cup of coffee. However, the growth of at-home espresso machines is making it difficult for cafe owners to compete.
- In Uganda, coffee drinking has only recently become popular. Historically, much of the good coffee grown in the country was exported and tea was more readily available.
- In Ethiopia, coffee holds an important place in ceremonial rituals and social relations. Ethiopians consider it a central part of their daily routines.
The type of coffee you enjoy can be shaped by such things as historical price regulations, the dominance of brand retailers and the types of technology available. In other countries, factors that have influenced the development of distinctive coffee cultures include colonial histories, the dominance of particular manufacturers, the regulation of smoking in public places, and the structure of ceremonial rituals. The value of coffee in the sphere of consumption is not only determined by the amount of coffee that is actually consumed but the sociocultural context in which it is enjoyed.