Much has been written about what it means to be “authentically” specialty, often without any acknowledgement that authenticity is a construct: there are no clear, objective criteria that qualifies something as “authentic.”
Engaging with music is a multi-layered, socio-cultural process—asking questions about how we use music, why we use it in certain ways, and what it means to us both personally and as a community can shed light on what we value and how we interact with each other.
I spend a lot of time thinking about music and, in particular, the music I hear in coffee shops. It’s kind of a personal quirk—I’m a recovering ethnomusicologist, having abandoned academia for coffee what feels like a long, long time ago—but it turns out I’m not alone in my musical musings.
It’s not as if we don’t already acknowledge the subtle importance of music within our industry: why else would World Barista Championship competitors bring their own soundtrack to shape their judges’ experience on stage? We talk a lot about music as a community, too—whether in person or on social media, baristas craft, share, and regularly debate playlists designed to set a particular mood or vibe.
But if music is so important to us, is it important to our customers, too? Is there some sort of special relationship between music and coffee that goes beyond the superficial ‘starving musician barista’ stereotype? Why should music matter? Why does it matter?