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Coffee Knowledge

The Four Waves of Coffee

By January 30, 2021May 9th, 2024No Comments

A few days ago, there were all these questions going on about the waves of coffee and how different eras has witnessed coffee as a commodity, booming around the globe. Many a times my students during trainings ask me the same question: what is third wave coffee or why it’s called specialty Coffee?

Coffee as the second most traded commodity in the world, only after oil, can be seen as a huge commercial market, constantly evolving. In the 1900s the coffee market started taking shape, slowly but surely. From Africa to Europe, these green beans created a stir. However, the real deal started only after the invention of espresso machine by an Italian, Desidorio Pavoni, whose design was patented by Brezzilli for commercial use. In the beginning commercial coffee was not particularly concerned with roasting profiles, flavors & production. This was the “First Wave” (commercialization) when coffee emerged in the mass commercial markets & became a highly popular beverage in every household.

The game changed with the emergence of Starbucks in 1970s. Starbucks focused on commercialization in a more popular way; making a regular cup cheap, easily accessible and created a pleasant ambiance for the buyer. However, it was still dark roasted, commercial product, largely focused on sales, not production. This was the “Second Wave”. Many other popular brands like Tim Hortons, Illy, Carribou jumped on the same bandwagon. Espresso & Latte became most popular types.

The “Third Wave” in late 1980s started to break the homogeneous commercial trends, by focusing more on production, roasting and the entirety of the whole process. Sustainability issues were raised, and with growing concerns regarding climate change, coffee farming with sustainable methods were raised. The third wave gave its consumers a better chance to actually “know” their cup of coffee.

With the emergence of organizations like Specialty Coffee Association & Sustainable Coffee Institute some of the important issues were raised and dealt with. Today a huge global presence can be seen with these third wave giants, promoting & working towards more sustainable goals for the industry.

I, myself, is a proud member of both these organizations and currently witnessing the rapid growth of “Fourth Wave” which is all about the science of coffee. This wave is focusing on detailed analysis of sustainable coffee farming methods, developing brewing equipment, water science and artisanal development.

Mehwish Asad Bari

SCA Certified Barista Trainer | Franchise Owner at Coffee Wagera – Maskan

Mush Panjwani

Mush is the Founder of Coffee Wagara. He has been a sales, marketing, and training expert for over 35 years; he has worked with corporates, leaders, and entrepreneurs in 20 countries. Mush is also the author of Dhinchak Life, a book about living a fantastic life!