THE TASTE TRANSFORMATION RITUAL IN THE SPECIALTY COFFEE MARKET
ABSTRACT Although the consumer culture field has addressed the role of ritual processes in consumption, no research has yet identified how connoisseur consumers, through ritual practices, establish and manipulate their distinction from other consumers. Drawing on key concepts from ritual theory, this research addresses the role played by ritual in connoisseurship consumption and consumers’ taste. In conducting an ethnographic study on connoisseurship consumption, the first author immersed himself in the North American specialty coffee context-Toronto, Montreal, Seattle, and New York-from August 2013 to July 2014. He used long interviews and participant observation to collect data, which was then interpreted using a hermeneutic approach. We introduce the taste transformation ritual, theorizing the process that converts regular consumers into connoisseur consumers by establishing and reinforcing differences between mass and connoisseurship consumption. We develop a broader theoretical account that builds on consumption ritual and taste formation.