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The waves that changed the world of coffee


Have you ever heard the term “coffee waves”? In this article, we will explain what coffee waves are, and what has defined the coffee world from the past to the present.

A brief history of coffee waves

The first coffee wave

We can talk about the first coffee wave from about 17. century, when coffee began to spread in Europe. During this period, the coffee trade as a commodity began to develop and the first coffee houses were established. Thus, we can say that the first wave was defined by the mass diffusion of coffee among the population without any quality criteria or deeper knowledge of the product.

The second coffee wave

The second wave began in the USA after 1960, when coffee was not only drunk, but also the quality of the beans, roasting, and especially the preparation of the beverages began to be taken into account. This wave is perfectly illustrated by the story of Starbucks, which turned a coffee business into a global, highly profitable corporation. This was precisely because of the new view of the quality of training and standardisation. Coffee has become a cultural and social phenomenon and a necessity of everyday life.

However, as it happens, this approach became obsolete and after 2000 we can speak of a third coffee wave.

The third coffee wave

Third wave coffee as a term was first used by Trish Rothgeb back in 2002 in Roasters Guild Publication, which defined three coffee “waves”.

Consumers in this wave are much more interested in a great cup of coffee that combines a variety of unusual aromas and flavours. In this wave, coffee is becoming more and more inspired by wine, people care much more about the origin of coffee, the processing processes and the way it is prepared.

An important feature of the third coffee wave is the characteristic of choice coffee and the creation of the Specialty Coffee of America. Defining coffee as “choice” and “non-choice” was an irreversible breakthrough in the evolution of the coffee industry. The quality of coffee has become very important and with it many other aspects such as the professionalism of the barista, the origin of the beans, roasting and transparency.

Baristas have gained a lot of attention in this wave because it’s them and their knowledge that leads to creating a great cup of coffee that can make your day. Before, a barista was just someone who made your coffee. Nowadays, a good barista knows the whole process, from the selection of green coffee to the perfect preparation. All with the aim of preserving the coffee’s specific characteristics.

In the same vein, we can also speak of the roaster, who has transformed himself from a worker into a highly skilled specialist whose work now resembles that of a laboratory more than a factory.

Another important characteristic of the third wave is the industry’s focus on sustainability throughout the supply chain. Various initiatives have emerged that promote economic sustainability, i.e. fair wages for farmers, but also ecological sustainability, i.e. an emphasis on cultivation without environmental consequences.


The Third Wave’s focus on the entire coffee production chain, from farmer to barista, is one of its most significant components. Social responsibility is a strength of modern coffee culture, as the current generation of coffee professionals are beginning to feel a sense of responsibility for being the drivers at the end of the chain in a hugely trafficked industry. Even today, many farmers are still very poorly paid for their hard work and live under constant economic pressure.

The efforts of coffee professionals throughout the chain to improve this situation can be seen, for example, in the names of the coffees. Often you will not only find them under the label “Peru”, for example, but “Peru Elicer Diaz”, where, in addition to the country of origin, you will also find the name of the farmer and, in some cases, the way in which the coffee was processed.

Ultimately, the third coffee wave is about love, belonging and a passion for excellence and fairness.

Signs of the third coffee wave:

  • Specific tastes (e.g. sweetness, aroma, acidity).
  • Lighter roasting profiles
  • Latte art as a technique for pouring frothed milk into coffee
  • Coffee with a specific origin (farm, region, altitude)
  • High degree of transparency of origin
  • Alternative coffee preparation methods(V60, Aeropress, Kalita, etc.)
  • Transparency of freshness by publishing specific roasting dates
  • Price transparency
  • Focus on grain quality


By buying and drinking coffee from a roastery with these core values, you give the coffee world a chance to move in a more sustainable and fairer direction. And that’s exactly what the third coffee wave is all about.