The Power of Myth in Coffee

Popular Belief and What It Says About Us

By Peter Giuliano, Specialty Coffee Association of America

In the popular parlance, the word “myth” is used to mean “incorrect information presented as fact.” That’s not the whole story. Myths, legends, and popular beliefs are more than just mistakes. For one thing, they are repeated, spreading from person to person through conversation, stories, newspaper articles, social media, and emails. They can be vivid tales that are transmitted over generations, or memorable stories passed around from friend to friend. These stories we tell about ourselves are important to us; they speak to our values and our priorities, they help us explain why we do the things we do. These kinds of stories are all types of folklore, which is a great way to think about them: they are a product of our culture, and they are a reflection of how we build beliefs as people.

We have a habit of spreading myths about coffee, and sometimes we debunk them, but to evaluate these stories as folklore gives us the chance to gain valuable insight into what drives us as coffee people, what makes coffee valuable to us, and how we might better develop our (and our customers’) understanding of what coffee is in our culture.

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