I don’t think it is fair to call myself a coffee guru. If anything I have an amateur feeling with a beginner’s enthusiasm and of course curious taste buds. I am passionate to explore the many facets of this delicious beverage but honestly nowadays there is such a vast vocabulary for coffee that some stuff gets easily be lost in translation or lose its meaning completely due to over use. A term that has popped up quite frequently in the last few years is ‘third wave coffee’. What the heck, right?
It turns out that the term was first used in the early 2000’s in an article published in the Roasters Guild, where the author described the historical movements of coffee consumption as ‘waves’. But before we get into the 3rd wave phenomena, let’s have a look at the previous ‘waves’.
The first wave of coffee has its roots in the 1800 but only about 100 years ago did it start to take the shape we recognize today. If you live in the USA the names Maxwell House and Folgers will probably bring up some rather bitter tasting memories. Such brands are the face of the first wave and made coffee, despite the low quality, available in every household and office.
Late in the 60’s the second wave emerged, and Starbucks is what it looks like. Coffee started to be marketed as an experience rather than just a beverage and people started to be interested in the peculiarities of the coffee they were drinking and quality took a front seat. However, as soon as these so called ‘specialty beans’ became available in the shelves of the supermarkets everywhere, the spell was broken and a new wave took over.
Which finally brings us to the third wave. It initiated about twenty five years ago and these days it plays an uttermost role in the coffee industry. It is commonplace in the USA and in the last ten years it became a phenomenon all around Europe, especially London.
As with fine wine or superior scotch, the third wave coffee focus on the quality of the beverage. From the harvesting of the beans, to responsible sourcing all the way to how it is presented in a cup. ‘ One cup at the time’ is the best way to describe the motto behind this movement.
Some argue that the third wave coffee “class” is rather snooty. Perhaps, telling the dark roasts lovers that they are drinking coffee the wrong way might not be a clever strategy to introduce the lighter notes of the bean and might lead to misunderstandings.
On my quest to learn more about the coffee, I have had the pleasure to meet some super knowledgeable baristas who were willing to share their passion and spread the good news. Other encounters were not so pleasant and I sensed some people exhaled a certain air of superiority because of their preferences and command of the subject.
To limit a subject as extensive as coffee to individual taste and opinion is arrogant. The best coffee is the coffee you like the most, simple as that.
So, what’s your wave?