So what are the waves of coffee? Broadly, they’re large shifts in the industry which took place over the past few centuries.
You might have seen a mention of third wave coffee before. But what happened to the first two? To illustrate, we’ll have to go through a bit of relatively recent history.
The first wave
First wave coffee began in the late 1800s, when coffee became a worldwide commodity, and ended in 1970.
Back then, although they were quickly recognising the benefits of the caffeine kick, consumers generally didn’t pay much attention to their coffee’s place of origin. The commercial focus was on low prices and consistent taste.
Emblems of the wave are canned coffee, seemingly endless pots in roadside diners and coffee drinkers that were unaware that their ‘cup of joe’ started with a plant.
The second wave
This was when companies, like Starbucks, put more emphasis on where their coffee came from. Better-quality coffee was more available, and bean buyers paid much more attention to how and where their coffee was produced. Coffee-shop culture became quite the craze.
Some put second wave coffee down to Peet’s Coffee in Berkeley, California, which was owned by a man known as ‘the godfather of gourmet coffee’.
The third wave
Though the term ‘third wave coffee’ was coined somewhere around the year 2000, the movement actually began in the 1980s.
Second wave coffees may have been labeled with their place of origin. But it would have typically been fairly broad. Think ‘Kenya’ or ‘Brazil’. Third wave coffee focuses on exactly where – often the single farm.
The third wave coffee movement is widely credited to a small group of third wave roasters, micro-roasteries and cafés that paid much more attention to the journey of the bean. They also experimented with lighter roasting levels, made ‘speciality coffee’ a more familiar term and began trading directly with the farmer.
These third wave roasters trading directly with the farmer meant they knew the origin of their coffee and could pick out the very best terroirs (complete natural environment where the coffee is produced). At Pact, we also do this to cut out unnecessary steps in the supply chain and form long-term relationships with farmers while making sure they get a fair deal.
This all said about third wave coffee from a single origin – there’s nothing wrong with blending great coffees from a number of places. In fact, we’ve got a number of espressos blends on our menu (try our classic Fruit and Nut and Bourbon Cream flavours), and these are made from two or more coffees.
But if you want to taste a true sense of place, make yours a single-origin coffee.