Posted in Kafevend Blog
Most of us probably consider ourselves coffee drinkers, even if we're tea drinkers first and foremost. Many will also be familiar with the term 'third wave coffee'. Nevertheless, if you're a little hazy on your coffee terminology then today's blog seeks to set the record straight by considering all three of coffee's waves!
The third wave of coffee is a term coined to label the movement, largely within the speciality coffee industry, which promotes a connoisseur appreciation of fine coffee much as one appreciates a fine wine or craft beer. The origin of the coffee is of central importance and the growers are typically better appreciated and better paid. A lot of thought is also given to the best way to roast the coffee in order to enhance its characteristics.
Coffee's third wave is a far cry from what is now referred to as its first wave. It's probably worth pointing out that trying to define exactly when the first wave happened does rather depend on where you are. So, in the USA it's often said to have started in the latter half of the nineteenth century with the mass production and marketing of coffee by companies like Folgers. Coffee drinking didn't reach the same proportions here in the UK until after the second world war, during which time instant coffee was popularised by American G.I.s. Of course we'd had coffee long before then. Coffee houses were popular enough meeting places in seventeenth century England for King Charles II to become uneasy about their potential as a catalyst for dissent and uprising. However, it was the much later innovations in processing, packaging and instant coffee that finally made the drink easier to market to a rapidly expanding British audience.
The second wave of coffee is generally defined as that period when consumers became more
discerning in their coffee drinking habits and coffee shops became a strong High Street presence. Big names like Starbucks, Costa and Café Nero gave us a chance to develop our coffee taste buds. A choice of coffee beans, roasting styles and a range of espresso based drinks became the norm. During this time robusta beans came to be looked down upon, while arabica assumed an elevated status. In time however, the growth of the coffee shop chains lead to an inevitable uniformity of product that the third wave seeks to avoid, driven as it is by small independents who are intent on maintaining a strong sense of individuality for themselves and the coffee they offer to the public.
Coffee's third wave is supported and encouraged in its development by prestigious events run by speciality coffee associations across the globe. Annual competitions discover the world's best in everything from coffee roasting to barista talent and latte art. These gatherings also function as a forum, promoting an exchange of knowledge and expertise between those attending the events. Having set such a high benchmark for itself one wonders if the third wave can ever be superseded by a fourth; only time will tell!