Third Wave Coffee, know it or not, it’s a movement that’s responsible for why you’re using some of your perfectly good time reading a coffee blog and it’s likely responsible for producing your favorite coffee. But, before we spoil the fun by telling you what it is, let’s delve a bit into the two waves that proceeded it and what makes the Third Wave so special.
First wave coffee is started in the mid-1800’s and continued up until the 1960’s. It was an era marked by preground coffee brewed in batches using a drip percolation method. Mass-market brands such as Folgers and Maxwell House entered the market, turning coffee from a more niche product into one for the masses and a part of most American’s morning routines. It went from a novelty to a crucial (or, if you believe the commercials, best) part of waking up, with almost three-quarters of Americans calling themselves coffee drinkers by the peak of the wave.
If it’s the first wave that brought coffee to the masses, then it’s the second wave that sought to make more of a specialty product. With companies like Starbucks, Peets, and others entering the market in the 1960’s and 1970’s, their product offerings, and brewing methods came to define the American– and global– coffee market. It was a step up from the product offerings of the first wave, in terms of both quality and variety, but it was still a significant difference from what was to come. This typically meant companies were using darker roasts in order to ensure the desired conformity in taste across their burgeoning coffee empires. These sometimes more-burnt-than-dark roasts were made to appeal to consumers by using large amounts of milk or sweeteners and syrups in order to mask the sometimes bitter flavor profiles of the underlying coffee or espresso. So-called “specialty” drinks turned coffee into an any-time-of-day drink with even more of a mass appeal.
Starting in the 1970’s, and starting to make its presence felt by the end of the 1980’s, third wave coffee emerged as a response to the perceived over-saturation of second-wave chains. Smaller, locally-owned shops begun to gain following from customers who were initiated into the coffee scene at second wave locations and then sought out more independent spots. These shops produced a lighter and wider range of roasts to give consumers a greater variety of flavor profiles to experience. This broadening of roasts was also accompanied by an ethos that focused on taking care to source the product ethically and sustainably and to discover the subtleties that existed in less traditionally popular types of beans. If the second wave was defined by specialty coffee-based drinks, then the Third Wave could be said to be defined by coffee that has a special story and experience behind it. Consumers began caring where their beans were coming from, how they were grown and that the producers were being fairly compensated for the role they played.
So what does that make us at Centri Coffee Roasters? We like to think that we’re taking some of the best parts of the Third Wave movement and helping push them forward and making them, even more, consumer friendly. We proudly share the movement’s obsession with quality and ethical sourcing, and we strive for the utmost transparency at every level of our business. We’re incredibly proud of the supply chain we have and we’ll talk about it to anyone. By starting with a lineup of certified Fair Trade, Organic and Biodynamic sources we know we have nothing to hide. In fact, we believe that our transparency is a strength that allows our customers to know that when they choose our offerings they’re making a great choice for both their palette and their planet. Our roasting methods are certainly influenced by the Third Wave as well. We have a variety of lighter roasts, featuring some more floral and fruity notes, that are a hallmark of the movement. But, we also carry beans that have been roasted along the full light to dark spectrum. With something for every taste, we think we’re able to better serve a wide array of preferences and also our loyal customers who are on a never-ending quest for their next favorite bean.