Quality versus Solidarity: Third Wave Coffee and Cooperative Values among Smallholding Maya Farmers in Guatemala

Abstract: This article examines how a market shift toward high-end (‘Third Wave') coffee creates tension between two producer models of economic engagement: cooperatives, with mechanisms that promote solidarity to minimize risks, and ‘open’ markets, with extraordinary rewards for those able to grow the highest quality coffees. Most Maya farmers value cooperative organization and yet a growing number are defecting, unable to forgo the premiums intermediaries offer for their best beans. This is a complicated moral and economic situation in which the Third Wave focus on single-origin coffees forces changes in relations of production that undermine the cooperative preferences of smallholding farmers.