If you spend time around coffee shops you may recently have heard the term “Third Wave Coffee.” The idea is that Maxwell House and Folgers started the American coffee addiction (1st wave); Starbucks made the coffee we drink and the place where we drink it a little more tasty and cool (2nd wave); and now thousands of micro-roasters around the country (around the world, really) are taking coffee to fine, precise measures once reserved for wines and fine scotch.
Two things you can expect:
1) Transparent sourcing of the beans. You will likely hear about the farmer who cultivated the cherries, and how his laborers are living on or around his farm. This is good. Many of the people involved at the source of your grocery coffee are paid very little for their hard work. Transparency allows you as a consumer to pick beans that provide a fair living for everyone in the production chain.
2) Precise coffee brewing methods. You will find that fewer of these “Third Wave” coffee bars are interested in cappuccinos and lattes, and more are interested in espresso and manually-poured coffees. If you’re drinking a cappuccino, a fully bloomed rosetta has replaced the dry pillows of foam. Venturing into manually poured coffees, you’ll immediately notice how much more balanced the brew is. No more sour hints of over- or under-extraction.
As someone interested in foods and beverages that have been properly and lovingly prepared for you, I encourage you to take a step beyond the 16oz macchiato – find a local café who is more caringly preparing their coffee. And ask a few questions. You’re going to find a new world of flavors you might not have known was available in such a small cup.