4 Waves of Coffee

4 Waves of Coffee

The notion of the 4th Wave of Coffee has been used fairly frequently in 2017 both online and in offline coffee societies as a continuation to the extensive publications issued by Trish Rothgeb (Wrecking Vall Coffee Roasters, 2002), Nicholas Cho (Murky Coffee, 2005) and lately by Bradford Lowry (craftbeveragejobs.com, 2016). And while many have not heard about the third wave and whatever came before, let’s do a quick historic dip into the history of a coffee bean since the whole idea of coffee popularization does deserve the offered classification.

A quick classification of the Coffee Waves would look like this:

  1. First Wave of Coffee. Dates back to 1800's when entrepreneurs saw the market potential of coffee. Coffee was made accessible to the mid-class society thanks to the progressive methods of coffee packaging (including, of course, vacuum packaging) and invention of instant coffee (Satori Kato, 1903). Reduced coffee prices and first advertising methods established coffee as the classic morning drink possessing tempting taste and unforgettable aroma.
  2. Second Wave of Coffee. Dates back to 1974 when the term “Specialty coffee” was first used by Erna Knutsen (Tea & Coffee Trade Journal). Unlike “Gourmet” or “Premium” coffees, having no defined standards, Specialty Coffee must score 80 – 100 points out of 100-point scale according to SCAA. Specialty coffee increased its market share from 15 to 20% in the last 25 years. On a larger scale coffee consumers wanted to know more about the coffee production, factors influencing quality, roasting and grinding methods.
  3. Third Wave of Coffee. The term first used in 2002 by Trish Rothgeb (Wricking Ball Coffee Roasters) and refers to the character of coffee: The history of the farm the beans are grown at, principles of the coffee roaster buying these, the way coffee beans are ground and roasted. Third Wave of Coffee is your favourite coffee shop/roastery you know everything about. It is about seeing coffee making as an art. It is about the transparency of the coffee bean from the farm in a distant country to the last minute grinding to deliver the authentic taste into your cup.
  4. Fourth Wave of Coffee. A notion used by the Vice President of Smartco International Brian Gross, a company based in Hong Kong, working in cooperation with Colorado schools on creating innovative brewing methods. The company believes that the existing methods of brewing coffee, heavily relying on machines and automation, are indeed killing the authentic coffee flavours. The Wave brings in alternative brewing and tasting methods aimed at preserving and delivering real coffee flavors.

Despite obviously logical historic development of coffee as beverage and craft there is something surprising in the fact that each of us is enjoying his or her Wave of Coffee. Which Wave are you in?


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