The term Third Wave Coffee has been around for a number of years, mostly in conversations between coffee brokers and roasters throughout the Specialty Coffee world. As was reported some time in 2012, there are more independent coffee shops than Large Chain Coffee Retailers in New York City. These shops are breaking a newer ground in terms of decor, customer appeal, and most of all – the coffee they are roasting and/or serving is a part of the Third Wave Coffee movement.
The Third Wave of Coffee – Where it begins.
The term “Specialty Coffee” came around in the mid 1970’s and was based on a rating system where the quality of the beans must score an 80-100. This began to separate the Yuban,Folgers, and Sanka’s from the more refined Arabicas that are available. This trend grew, and became what is referred to as Second Wave Coffee; Starbucks came into the scene and brought about new roast profiles and sourced from their own specified regions giving them a “Specialty Profile” and were considered a Gourmet Coffee.
As Transparency in the food and beverage industry grew with ingredient components being left out or added, born on dates, and freshness becoming even more of a demand from consumers, it was only a matter of time until it hit your cup. A few of the larger Pioneers of Third Wave including Sight Glass Coffee ( named after the sight glass on a coffee roaster so you can see inside), Blue Bottle, and Stump Town began to work with and beyond coffee brokers to get to the source of where the coffee was grown and develop relationships with the coffee Farmers. Along with coffee brokers being more transparent in their sourcing efforts, coffee roasters were able to offer a distinct farming region in and of the coffees country/region of origin.
As Coffee farmers ourselves, third wave coffee has been a part of our every day life at Reggie’s roast Coffee. We are among the 5,000 Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee farmers and understand the distinction among different elevations, water table content, sunlight, shade and soil conditions and how they effect a coffee’s taste. There are several Estates including Wallenford, Clifton Mount, Mavis Bank, and Clydesdale to name a few. Same goes for any region where coffee is grown. It may be a countries origin that you are looking for, but what farm or estate would you prefer? That traceability is now available except in some instances where a dozen or so farmers with small crops sell to a co-op; then you have more than one farm’s crop in a given processed lot. With many small coffee Farmers in Jamaica, this is often the case.
Also, there are larger specialty coffee brokers such as Volcafe that will source specific crops for themselves so they can market and sell that estate exclusively. As is the case with a crop of Papua New Guinea we sourced that had the Broker’s logo on the bag along with the crop date and lot (I.C.O.) number which identifies the crop, aiding in traceability. The broker was able to offer cupping notes, and provide suggested roast profiles for their specific crop as well, taking on more ownership along the way. This allow us to communicate that information to our customers and educate them about such distinct coffee offerings, bringing about third wave coffee.
To sum up the idea of what Third Wave Coffee is, it is analogized to going to a steak restaurant and being able to know exactly what your cow looked like, where it was from, and what it ate for breakfast before it becomes your meal. This is the beginning of a new era for the small to medium size roasters and coffee shops that want to go the extra step in offering a better cup while empowering them with the knowledge to share exactly where your coffee came from!