I love coffee, I cannot imagine a day without it. But while scrolling through some articles online, I stumbled upon one that left me completely clueless. It was The Independent's article “Third Wave Water: How Hipsters Finally Ruined Coffee” published earlier this year. So, let’s dive right into it. I will try to explain where the trend of Third Wave coffee stands, where it originated and what’s the future of coffee trends.
Words: Aleksandra Medina
Let’s start with the first two waves of coffee. In 1960s, the consumption of coffee started to grow exponentially. Finally, the coffee market was available worldwide. This marked the First Wave for coffee.
The Second Wave came along, when people started paying attention to the coffee supply line and first profitable coffee shop businesses, like Starbucks (1971), entered the coffee market. The readily available coffee with a much higher quality became more of a luxury, rather than a necessity and marked the height of the Second Wave.
So, what’s Third Wave coffee? There are a lot of different definitions out there for this movement, but it all comes down to the quality and the appreciation of the beverage. For the first time, people paid attention to every link in the supply chain: starting from the coffee bean farmer and ending with the barista and the consumer. Additionally, the importers of the coffee beans and the consequent coffee shop owners started paying more attention to the sustainability of the supply chain. And that brought along more innovative brewing methods to improve both quality and taste of their coffee.
It became a trend for a reason: the consumer is willing to pay more for an ethical and quality-controlled product, because it adds to the coffee drinking experience. Now, more than ever, consumption of coffee has become a luxury, with the customer service entailing knowledge about the product and hospitality in serving it.
Julian Rivera of Once Once Tostadores de Café, Mexico, says: “Specialty [coffee that scores higher than 80 points, on a 100-point quality scale] is how [third wave coffee] is achieved. It’s only with distinctive quality and noticeable difference in the way we present coffee that we will be able to connect it to the consumer’s palates. Third Wave coffee is an experience. Specialty coffee is what we serve in that experience.”
"Now, more than ever, consumption of coffee has become a luxury, with the customer service entailing knowledge about the product and hospitality in serving it."
Has All the Hype Around Artisanal, 3rd Wave Coffee Cooled Down? #Savant
People are already discussing the possibility of the Fourth Wave coffee, while many doubt the possibility for one. In what the Third Wave of coffee represents, we already experience extremely high quality coffee, meaningful consumer-producer relationships, practice transparent trade, educate about the production process and use innovative brewing methods. Many people don’t see where else we could take the experience of drinking coffee. While some believe, there is more growth in the knowledge about the quality of the beans: to do with the soil, the coffee plants, the climate…
The writers for Sprudge.com believe that the Fourth Wave should be called the New Wave instead, as it is just taking Third Wave coffee and making it more accessible to people outside the world’s metropole hipster areas. Samuel Lewontin, manager at Everyman Espresso, believes that "accepting that automation of the physical acts of production doesn’t necessarily detract from the artistic merit of the resulting product" is the New Wave. And what about the Fourth Wave? The world is not ready for it yet.
So, as long as you agree to define Third Wave coffee as a more ethically-sourced, quality-produced coffee, we are still living in the Third Wave coffee age, while slowly tipping towards the New Wave. It is not about the Aussie-owned hipsterish coffee shops anymore; it’s about making sure everyone has access to ethically-produced and skillfully brewed coffee.