Coffee – the taste of globalization. Studies of emerging coffee culture in Kyrgyzstan
Paulina Simkin, M.Sc.
Prof. Dr. Matthias Schmidt
Coffee and cafés are deeply rooted in Western cultures and are also a characteristic of globalisation and westernisation processes. They symbolise a western working atmosphere, are part of western leisure and lifestyle styles and play an important role in the perception of urbanity. Global media communicate these images and thereby stir up desires, needs, views and attitudes and thus new ways of consumption and behaviour.
For some years now, a trend has been observed in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, where cafés have been opening. The first opened in 2006, today there are over 40 cafés. This development is astonishing against the background that Kyrgyzstan is a "country of tea drinkers", coffee is mainly known in soluble form and Italian-created coffee products as well as visiting cafés are relatively expensive. Until 2016 Bishkek did not seem to exist on the map of global players either.
The coffee market was created by local actors who implemented knowledge from abroad. Today there are also few global café chains, but only from the post-Soviet region. The clash of global processes with local structures in Kyrgyzstan is particularly interesting in a larger scale, since after the collapse of the Soviet Union the state finds itself in a transformation of a political and economic nature as well as in a process of nationality and identity formation. This study is an important component of Central Asia research.
Globalization processes change cultural customs and have different effects in different cultural circles. The research project deals with different questions on the emergence of the market and on socio-cultural changes in Bishkek's urban life, which are primarily hypoted with the newly created space of the café. Based on the Third Place approach (Oldenburg 1999), the project investigates how this newly created space is perceived in society.
This is a place that, after the First Place, the home, and the Second Place, the workplace, represents a place to linger. Third Places are defined by different categories, above all they should be places of rest and communication where all social groups can meet. They are and were an integral part of different cultures. The most prominent examples are European cafés or coffee shops, which are mainly distributed globally by Starbucks. To simplify matters, all variations are grouped under the term café. In Bishkek, cafés offer new spaces for communication and relaxation that were not available before.
In cafés, a number of conditions established themselves such as friendly service, partly self-service, no obligation to order and free WLAN, which do not occur in this combination in other gastronomies. The initial question of this research project is to what extent urban everyday practices in society and food consumption have changed in view of the attractiveness of the seemingly dominant western lifestyle.