If you have ever been around a coffee nerd, you may have heard the phrase “3rd Wave Coffee” bounced around and over glorified. You may have also seen this on a coffee label or heard it in referring to certain companies as opposed to others; I am here to save you from your lack of knowledge.
What is a ‘Wave’ in Terms of Coffee?
Basically, a “wave” is simply a turning point that creates a new era in coffee production. Every once in a while, almost every industry makes a drastic change in the way they produce or work with their specific products: this has happened about three times in the coffee industry. These shifts are called “waves”.
What Are Each of the Waves of Coffee?
First Wave Coffee: 1960s: Coffee starting booming for the first time and consumption became much more widespread and available for virtually anyone to get ahold of. At this point: coffee was coffee.
Second Wave Coffee: Big companies started looking to coffee as a business campaign and companies such as Starbucks helped make a shift to coffee becoming more of a luxury item. Producers and consumers started to become more interested in where the coffee came from and the practices behind getting the bean.
Third Wave Coffee: Third Wave Coffee is essentially just a way of appreciating and respecting coffee like it has never been before. It’s a whole new way of looking at coffee. Third wave coffee is most easily defined as producers spending a great deal of time and energy through every detail of the coffee process in order to extract the most flavor possible out of the coffee bean.
That being said…this site is pretty much an offspring of the third wave coffee movement 🙂
Third Wave Has More Focused Attention On:
Coffee Quality: This is probably the most noticeable difference. Third wave coffee makes no mistake in attempting to provide the highest quality coffee possible through gauging temperatures, weighing coffee beans, timing each part of the process and knit-picking each and every step that goes into making a cup of coffee.
Coffee Sustainability/ Environmental Impact: As the industry has changed, so have peoples’ perspectives on the way we should relate as consumers to the entire process of receiving coffee. In the ‘Third Wave’ there has been tremendous growth in understanding how our decisions as consumers matter on the larger scope of things.
Light Roast Coffee: A newer movement with the goal of bringing out the fruity notes of the coffee bean rather than the more dark, bold, burnt taste traditional of Starbucks. Less emphasis has been given to the dark roast bean within this movement (Let the record state that I’m not hating on dark roast drinkers…I drink dark roast 90% of the time).
Customer Service: There is a greater emphasis on the experience of going to a coffee shop for a customer rather than them simply getting a coffee on their way to work or out of necessity for caffeine. Third wave coffee shops tend to work very hard at educating the customer about their coffee and the industry as a whole. Coffee shops tend to no longer view themselves as simply helping people stay awake, but more so think about their role as truly caring for the guest in all areas.
Is There A Fourth Wave on The Horizon?
Some are saying undoubtably yes; we certainly wouldn’t bet against it. The way coffee is headed, it is quite likely we could see yet again a shift in the way consumers use coffee, and in turn, a whole new level of coffee nerd-ness would arise under the title of “Fourth Wave”.
Hope that cleared a few things up!