Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea

Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea

by Sarah Besky

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What is the role of quality in contemporary capitalism? How is a product as ordinary as a bag of tea judged for its quality? In her innovative study, Sarah Besky addresses these questions by going inside an Indian auction house where experts taste and appraise mass-market black tea, one of the world’s most recognized commodities. Pairing rich historical data with ethnographic research among agronomists, professional tea tasters and traders, and tea plantation workers, Besky shows how the meaning of quality has been subjected to nearly constant experimentation and debate throughout the history of the tea industry. Working across fields of political economy, science and technology studies, and sensory ethnography, Tasting Qualities argues for an approach to quality that sees it not as a final destination for economic, imperial, or post-imperial projects but as an opening for those projects.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520303256
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 05/12/2020
Series: Atelier: Ethnographic Inquiry in the Twenty-First Century , #5
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Sarah Besky is a cultural anthropologist and Associate Professor in the ILR School at Cornell University. She is the author of The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair Trade Tea Plantations in India.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: The Production of Quality
1 • The Work of Taste
2 • The Auction and the Archive
3 • The Problem with Blending
4 • The Science of Quality
5 • The Quality of Cheap Tea
6 • The Quality of Markets
Conclusion: The Endurance of Quality


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