What is third-wave coffee?
The definition is up for interpretation, but it’s generally understood as a new movement with a focus on high quality, specialty coffee; it’s about being involved in the entire lifecycle of the beans, from where they’re grown to how they’re roasted and brewed.
The first wave dates back to the 1800s and was all about creating a mass market based on a growing worldwide consumption of the drink. It was about getting coffee into the homes of people around the world (think: Folgers and Maxwell House and the way they became household names).
The second wave came about through a criticism of quality in the first wave’s mass production. After getting used to readily available coffee and taking more of an interest in where it came from, consumers expressed a desire for a better product. This prompted the rise of companies like Starbucks, Peet’s, and any other barista-style coffee.
Third wave is essentially an extension of this growing interest in high-quality coffee. According to Patrick Barter, co-owner and roaster of Downtown Boston's Gracenote Coffee, “Third wave seems to be a movement created by a body of people who’ve built their businesses on highlighting quality, innovation, transparency, and craftsmanship, as it relates to coffee.”