An anthropologist delves into the rarefied ritualistic world of specialty coffee, where highly trained brewers and judges compete to determine which beans reign supreme.

ONE SATURDAY MORNING IN mid-January 2020, Elika Liftee was getting ready to make a special cup of coffee. He was backstage behind a row of blue, trade-show curtains that had transformed a former factory in Nashville, Tennessee, into the site of a qualifying round for the United States Coffee Championship.

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