The Always Evolving Coffee Industry

What’s Next for The Coffee Industry?

You’ve probably heard of the term “third wave coffee” but do you understand what it actually means? The term “wave” is given to a product or service when it’s sold in a different way than what we’re familiar with. The market increases the quality of the newly developed or modified product and also ensures that it can reach as many groups of people. Waves focus on making products more than just a commodity.

The term which was created by coffee historian Timothy Castle, describes the growth of craft coffee in North American culture that took off in the early 1900s. The different waves are focused on improving coffee, the way it’s served, and the overall education about it. As the waves have progressed over the years, there’s been an improvement to the overall taste and quality of the coffee in each phase, whether mild or drastic.

The First Wave

The first wave of coffee revolves around increasing its popularity from a commodity to a must-have staple item. During this phase, the main focus for coffee companies was convenience, ease of use and affordable mass production. Coffee entrepreneurs wanted to make sure that everyone around the country had easily accessible coffee that they could make on their own. This was a time when coffee was a truly American thing to drink.

Initially, mass producers of coffee were focused more on having it enter every home rather than being concerned about the actual taste and quality. The first wave was profit-driven with an emphasis on increasing consumption while saving on costs. This was the time when traditional instant coffee brands were at their peak of popularity. However, the production method that these brands used sacrificed taste and quality.

The Second Wave

If the first wave was all about people buying coffee because they needed it quickly, the second wave was all about taking the time and slowing down the process as much as possible. The second wave brought in more of the coffee-to-cup experience that was needed. This allowed consumers to learn about the origins of the coffee they were drinking and the different roasting styles. People took to this new direction rather quickly. Coffee became something to chat about with friends.

This was also the phase when terms such as espresso, cappuccino, and barista made their way into our everyday vocabulary. The second wave represents the birth of coffee shops and defines the rise of café culture that we’re so familiar with today. It’s when coffee became “cool” and “trendy” because it began to be branded as more of an upscale product with an emphasis on the overall coffee experience.

The Third Wave

The third wave of coffee is the phase you and I live in today. It’s artisanal, craft, and local coffee that generally speaking is a luxury. This phase is when coffee became cemented as part of the artisanal world. It represents the movement of producing only high-quality coffee with transparency into the processing and the entire coffee supply chain. Its effort is to showcase the coffee culture in a similar fashion as wine and chocolate.

The third wave causes others to appreciate the individual tastes, aromas, and flavors of the coffee and puts greater emphasis on the story and origin of the coffee beans. It’s also when new criteria and flavors emerged in the coffee industry. Light vs dark roast coffee, blended coffee, and aesthetics such as latte art make this phase is fun and progressive. This phase is all about building actual relationships and finding locally sourced specialty goods.

What’s In Store for the Fourth Wave?

The fourth wave hasn’t officially begun yet, but experts are claiming we’re slowly entering it. Some coffee connoisseurs think they have a general idea of what the coffee industry will look like in the next decade or so, but it’s all uncertain for now. One assumption that many have is that coffee will be all about e-commerce in the near future. Technology should play a huge role in the new coffee wave and definitely affect the direct to consumer coffee.

Coffee ordering apps are already becoming popular, but as usage increases so will the things we’re able to do with those apps. Possibly skipping a visit to the coffee shop and ordering a fresh latte at home. Technology will also expand what we can do with the current styles of coffee out there. CBD infused coffee, nitro coffee, and spiked coffee are only the beginning and we’re so excited to see what the fourth wave of coffee could be!