Emil Bæk Holland

PhD Student

Emil Bæk Holland


Practicing New Coffee - a case study of the co-innovative construction of alternative food networks


This project examines how innovation happens in alternative food networks by investigating the workings of a relatively new niche in specialty coffee, here termed “new coffee”.


New coffee is a different way of ‘doing coffee’. In this alternative coffee practice, or alternative coffee network, the entire practice of coffee is altered in an establishment of the alternative. As an antithesis to the way coffee is produced, traded, handled, roasted, advertised, brewed and tasted in the conventional coffee industry, coffee is both understood and practiced differently by producers and consumers alike. Centered on quality, the niche advocates transparency and sustainability throughout the coffee process, and thus possesses the potential to innovate not only in terms of taste and quality, but also in production, trade and the role of coffee in everyday life.


To understand how these transformations happen, the project utilises ethnographic method to trace the workings of the niche. How is it continuously and simultaneously reperforming and renewing itself? In other words, how does innovation happen, and who innovates? How are new relations established and stabilized? Who and what can potentially connect and who/what is left out?


Lurking behind all of these questions is the construction of quality that dominates and drives the niche. A notion closely tied to co-constructed knowledges and negotiated taste experiences, creating shared, but constantly evolving understandings of what should be pursued in the quest for quality in the cup. Understanding this co-construction of quality, both material and human, is thus a necessary stepping stone to understanding how this alternative food network evolves, and possibly affects mainstream production and consumption.

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