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Three Waves of Coffee - Equilibrium Intertrade Corporation

Three Waves of Coffee



Most of us need coffee to get through the day. From the moment we wake up, to the time when we are trying to stay awake in the middle of our work, or while keeping in touch with our friends and colleagues, coffee has been part of our routine. Admit it, it’s a struggle to keep up in this fast-paced world without your cup of coffee. This daily companion of ours may not be the answer to life’s problems, but it does help a lot. For the past years, the coffee industry has gone through revolutionary developments that have changed the perspective of people consuming it. Coffee has become celebrated more than ever, gaining a lot of aficionados especially among the millennials. Wherever you go, whether within the comfort of your home or at your favorite hangout spot, coffee is definitely available. But how did coffee attain its current distinction as the third most consumed beverage in the world? Thanks to the so-called “waves” of coffee, the knowledge about this has expanded, leading to the wide acceptance of the coffee beverage. To fully understand this, let us revisit the history of our beloved drink.

First Wave

The first wave of coffee refers to the popularization of coffee among the general public. This period started back in the 1800’s when entrepreneurs recognized the need for a market that will provide coffees that are both affordable and accessible. Bulk production and mass consumption of coffee became a custom with the development of vacuum packaging, making way for fresher coffee beans. Meanwhile, it was in the early 1900’s- at the time when the industry created products that are time-saver and easy to use- the household favorite “instant coffee” was born. Since the primary concern among coffee suppliers at this time was the affordable price, coffee consumption spread among households and workplace around the world despite its low quality.

Second Wave

On the other hand, the second wave of coffee refers to the increase of quality coffee that are readily available for consumption. Coffee roasters started the transition to second wave as a reaction to the supposed to be “bad coffee” that is being marketed under the first wave. Specialty coffee gradually gained recognition among coffee lovers, with people getting interested in the origin and the unique roasting styles of their coffees. Coffee has become a luxury rather than a necessity, offering a special coffee experience to every consumer. Coffee shops began to emerge, and coffee lingos were born. The downfall of second wave can be blamed to these coffee shops who grew into big businesses because of forsaking the origin, quality, and consistency of the coffees for commercialization.

Third Wave

According to many, we are now in what is known as the third wave of coffee. In the third wave, the coffee itself takes center stage. A high degree of transparency and education is important, with the consumers taking interest in every stage of the coffee from the seed to the cup. Quality coffees are on the rise, with people getting interested in the characteristic of the coffee itself. Coffee terminologies became more complex, and more coffee roasting and brewing techniques were introduced. It is about more than just drinking the best coffee; it is how people view that coffee.

Third Wave vs. Specialty Coffee

Most of the time, the terms third wave and specialty coffee are being used interchangeably, but are those two the same thing? No.

Specialty coffee is a cup of coffee; third wave is the mindset about that cup of coffee.

Specialty coffee refers to coffees that received a grade of at least 80 points or higher using the Specialty Coffee Association International Standard Cupping Form and Procedures. These coffees are usually grown at specific origins, painstakingly processed to ensure premium quality. Even long before the third (and second) wave was born, specialty coffee already existed. Without specialty coffee, these movements would not have existed.

Is there a fourth wave already?

While most coffee aficionados are still not convinced that we are now completely in the third wave, some people are already talking about a fourth wave. Though the definition of this new wave is still ambiguous, the fourth wave is deemed to focus on new coffee technologies, greater emphasis on coffee science, and larger number of coffee enthusiasts.

Change is inevitable, and the coffee industry is not exempted. Our favorite drink has come a long way for the past years, and it continues to surprise us with its potentials. These coffees have a lot to offer not only to coffee geeks, but also to every consumer.

So the next time you want to grab a cup of coffee, do not be afraid to ask questions about your drink.

Always remember that it’s fun to know about your coffee- one cup at a time.


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