|WHAT IS THIRD WAVE COFFEE?
Third wave coffee is about quality, sustainability and transparency. It's about treating the second largest (legally) traded commodity on the market as an artisanal product — complete with an understanding of where the coffee came from, its varietal, how it was grown, processed, milled, stored, shipped, roasted and finally ground and brewed with an eye on reaching the coffee's greatest potential.
Here in Portland, we are lucky to be leaders in the third wave coffee revolution, but to understand what third wave coffee means, it’s helpful to see how far we’ve come: The first wave was the pre-ground blends of coffee our grandparents may have purchased at the grocery store and brewed at home. The second wave started in the 1960's with Peet’s and Starbucks. At this time espresso drinks — a typical Italian brew method dating from 1901 — was introduced to the United States. It was during this time we started to learn a little more about the coffee we were drinking — where it came from, if the coffee was "fair trade" and what a double, tall, half caf, no whip mocha was.
While the groundwork for the third wave was laid in the mid-to-late 1990's by a handful of dedicated individuals who started thinking about the sustainability of coffee and realized investing in farmers and co-ops through direct trade relationships was a way to not only make coffee more sustainable, but to ultimately bring a better end product to their customers; the term "third wave" was not coined until almost a decade later.
In 2008, Jonathan Gold, a food critic for LA Weekly famously said, "The new face of coffee is neither Juan Valdez nor a gum-snapping waitress named Madge." He goes on to describe the three waves of coffee referring to the third wave as an era of "coffee connoisseurship, where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure." Enter the third wave — marked by transparency, not only of the supply chain from seed to cup, but also the coffee itself: its origin, varietal, farmer or co-op, growing elevation, processing method and more.
Here in Portland, we have the enviable position of being able to enjoy some of the best coffee available in the world, at any time, on a daily basis at our local micro-roaster's cafe.