First-wave, Second-wave, Third-wave Coffee Revolutions

The Three Eras of Coffee Shop:

If you’ve been to a café or read an article about coffee at least once in your life, you might have heard the expression “third-wave”. So, what does it even mean?

Since the dawn of cafés, there has been three major revolutions or waves of cafés within the coffee world.

  1. First Wave: Traditional Cafés
    • Think traditional Italian or French coffee bars.
    • Typically serves dark-roast, single-origin blends.

  2. Second Wave: Commercial Cafés
    • Think Starbucks, McCafe, and Tim Horton’s (for my Canadian readers).
    • Typically serves a blend of low-quality, over-roasted, prematurely ground beans, but they’re in high demand because they’re easily accessible, cheap, and convenient.

  3. Third Wave: Experimental Cafés
    • Think of the nearest place where hipsters congregate.
    • Typically serves high-quality, single-origin, medium-roast coffee beans.
    • Trained coffee artisans (baristas, roasters, cuppers) work together to create and serve the perfect espresso and filter coffees.
    • Current experimental coffee trends: new brewing methods like cold brewing and AeroPress, “green”/lightly roasted coffees, vegan & other milk alternatives, matcha lattes, a return to single-origin blends, KeepCup and other environmentally sustainable options, tech advancements like Acaia Digital Coffee Scale, Masterclasses for cupping, latte art, and other barista essentials available to the public.

Now, go out and impress people with your random coffee knowledge! And as always, thank you for reading and joining me on this #internationalcoffeejourney

9 thoughts on “First-wave, Second-wave, Third-wave Coffee Revolutions

    1. For sure, the fourth-wave will be just as exciting as the third. Food & bev are a reflection of the culture and culture is constantly evolving. I imagine coffee culture will become even more immersive, especially for the consumer (e.g., organized tours of coffee farms, similar to wine tours), creating a more globalized community. What do you think is on the horizon?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yea; great point. I think the trend will move towards transparency and education. This may be played out by farm tours as you mentioned, or maybe the continuation of leaving roasters in shops for customers to see. Maybe more emphasis on the farms, and the science behind brew methods being easily available to consumers.

        I’m seeing an increase in “training centers” which could be a tell-tale sign of what is to come. Maybe not too long from coffee having something similiar to a sommelier…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Indeed in the Age of Information, it makes sense that we seek transparency in our consumer choices. As well as barista schools, I’ve noticed more and more collabs happening (e.g., beer x coffee, spirits x coffee, cheese x coffee pairings, spices x coffee, even painting with coffee). Coffee is bringing out the creative in all of us.

        Liked by 1 person

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