A lot of our customers have been asking, what is third wave coffee? Third wave coffee is a term used to describe beans grown, harvested, roasted, and prepared under conditions considered superior to previous methods. The name was conceived to distinguish its particular approach to coffee from the second wave, which was characterized by dark, European-style roasts that now define Starbucks. (The first wave would be the initial coffee enthusiasm of nearly a hundred years ago, which resulted in mass-produced brand names like Folgers and Maxwell House.)
This artisan coffee movement originated around 1990, and is constantly striving to raise coffee quality and preparation to greater heights. Third wave coffee is more established in countries like the USA, Australia, and New Zealand, but from 2000 onwards it took root in the UK and has since become a phenomenon.
Third wave coffee is viewed as an artisan-crafted beverage, like fine wine or superior scotch, and not a mass-produced commodity. The origins, elevation, growth conditions, and processing of all coffee beans are assessed and carefully controlled in order to achieve their greatest taste potential. The goal is to highlight and showcase their unique, natural flavours and preserve them by treating the coffee as a delicate gourmet product. There is more emphasis on and attention to seasonality, with only the freshest crops being used.
Distinctive features of third wave coffee include:
● Top-grade Arabica beans
● Single origin beans instead of blends
● Lighter roasts
● Direct trade coffee
● Latte art
● Alternative preparation methods, such as pour-over brewers and vacuum coffee
When it comes to roasting, third wave coffee merchants (also known as ‘microroasters’) bypass dark, Starbucks-level French roasts in favor of a lighter approach, believing that it preserves the distinctive profiles of each unique bean type. They also roast small batches at a time and grind the coffee within four weeks maximum. Most shops that identify as third wave establishments also grind it fresh to order, and prepare it using manual by-the-cup methods, such as cafetières, pour-over ceramic cones, vacuum, Aeropress, and siphons. Whatever the brewing method, the goal is to create a handcrafted cup that retains the natural characteristics and flavors of a good speciality coffee.
The third wave coffee philosophy is sometimes misinterpreted as elitism, with its practitioners looking down on those who love their Maxwell House and Starbucks. But the reality appears to be that it’s another way of ensuring that coffee aficionados have access to a good quality, delicious, and well-crafted cup.