phoenecia (phoenecia) wrote in ethnography_usa,

Ethno-Beverageology Comes to the Forefront!

Well, I got the idea of studying beverages when I was searching on Google and found out about the Rhode Island state beverage controversy.  You really can't talk about local/ethnic consumption patterns without talking about Rhode Island food.  For instance, did you know that RI is one of the national leaders in coffee ice-cream consumption?  All because someone got the idea of putting coffee grounds in kids' fountain drinks.... 

Another article that talks about the survival of local products in RI is here:

Since the trend is for honesty in ethnography, I should admit that I'm overdoing the Rhode Island stuff, but it is my favorite place on earth...

If you start researching sociology involving beverages, you'll notice pretty quickly that caffeine, sugar and alcohol are the main focus.  For instance, Virtual Coffee asks Why .[...] do coffee drinkers go to a coffeehouse and pay two to three dollars for something they can prepare at home for a fraction of the cost?  And answers their own question:  it is the human need for contact that drives this industry.   So what do you think, is that really the reason we have 5,000 Starbucks in the world, including one in the Forbidden City?  (I was there, by the way.  Had a Green Tea Frappuccino.  It was one of the worst things I've ever had in my life).

And at the convenience store, who's reaching for the ridiculously priced Starbucks drinks, and who's reaching for the 99 cent bottle of Chino? 

A list of Kwik Trip store brands is here:

But if you really want to make money undercutting Starbucks, you need to be importing Suntory Boss Coffee.  Everybody knows Suntory from Lost in Translation, yuppies love Japanese stuff, and the guy smoking the pipe on the can looks a little bit like Bob from the Church of the Subgenius, so there you go.  It's brilliant.  And it tastes good. 

So how come the market for Japanese products in the US is never exploited?  Maybe it only seems that way to me because I live in Wisconsin.  Good thing, too, because it keeps the prices down.  Maybe the people who buy it are just going to Asian specialty stores, like I do.  Sounds like the subject of a later post...

Meanwhile, an only somewhat reliable economics site claims that caffeine is indeed an inelastic product, that is, Most people are not willing to give up their morning cup of caffeine no matter what the price.

This fact, along with the frequency of social alcohol consumption in the colonial US, might help explain the motivation behind the Boston Tea Party!

Now, let's talk about alcohol.  Though the Virtual Coffee site above says that social alcohol consumption is stigmatized today, I don't think that applies to everyone in the US.  I mean, try telling the guys down at the Echo Tavern that.  Not that they think they're super-trendy anyhow, but you know. 

These sites say that rich people drink more alcohol:   in Norway (and so do the more highly educated:  could the myth of the grad school drunk really be true?  Anybody?)  in England (actually, my uncle can tell you a funny story about meeting Christopher Hitchens that would seem to substantiate the rumors about high alcohol consumption by the British upper class/classes). In the USA, where this seems to be related to what you drink:  poor people are drinking beer, rich people are drinking the wine and spirits (The opposite of consumption trends before Prohibition.  Canada must have sent us some good beer during those years or something.  *teehee*)

And finally, don't miss the controversy over the "Happy Days Study".  Were sociological implications overlooked?  


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