The Next wave of coffee

The concept of “waves” in the coffee industry refers to significant periods of change and innovation that have shaped the industry over time. These waves represent shifts in consumer attitudes, market dynamics, and technological advancements that have transformed the way coffee is produced, marketed, and consumed.

1st wave – Traditional coffee culture.

Commodity driven, mass consumption, not much difference within coffee qualities or origins, purely transactional, not a sensorial experience just a way of getting a shot of energy.

The first wave of coffee, which emerged in the early 20th century, marked the transition of coffee from a novelty to a commodity. This period saw the rise of mass-produced coffee, with brands like Folgers and Maxwell House dominating the market.

2nd wave – Branded chains.

Coffee shop culture, customised espresso-based beverages, social experience.

The second wave, which began in the 1960s and 1970s, shifted the focus from commodity to culture. This era saw the emergence of lifestyle branded chains like Starbucks, which emphasized the coffee shop experience and created a new type of coffee culture.

3rd wave – Artisan coffee.

Focus on quality, micro-roasting, handcrafting, sourcing transparently, attention to origins.

The third wave, which started in the 1990s and 2000s, focused on consumer awareness and the appreciation of high-quality, specialty coffee. This period saw the rise of independent coffee shops and roasters, who emphasized the quality of the coffee beans, the roasting process, and the brewing techniques.

4th wave – Science.

Focus on coffee science, perfect taste experience, single-origin coffees, understanding of varieties, processes, and impact of farming in quality.

The fourth wave, which is currently underway, is characterized by a focus on scalability and the democratization of high-quality coffee. This wave is about bringing specialty coffee to a wider audience.

The fourth wave of coffee is characterized by a focus on scalability, bringing higher-quality coffee to a wider audience, and expanding from a niche market to a broader consumer base. Additionally, the fourth wave is driven by consumer preferences, particularly among Gen Z, who value knowing more about coffee bean production and the supply chain, and are driving the trend towards premium home-sourced coffee drinks and online coffee innovation.

What’s the next wave of coffee?

And then, more recently, there is the 5th wave of coffee. The next wave of coffee will combine the passion and fascination that consumers have for coffee and its potential in different preparation methods with detailed information on what lies beyond the bean itself. With the rising knowledge about the factors that directly influence coffee’s quality, consumers have understood that a large part of the quality success factor comes from the cultivation and processing. Therefore, there is a growing curiosity to know where each coffee comes from, how it was processed and what production practices were used. This may have a unique consequence: the connection.

According to some in the industry, the fifth wave represents a new era of scaled boutique hospitality. It implies scaling up consistent high quality to achieve a highly successful, customer-centric, and sustained business outcome. This wave is about creating highly engaging and aspirational experiences for customers, with a focus on quality, scale, and customer engagement.

For others, the next wave of coffee is about making high-quality coffee more accessible and scalable, while also prioritizing social and environmental responsibility.

It’s worth noting that there is some debate among coffee connoisseurs about the existence and definition of the fourth and fifth waves, with some arguing that these waves are still developing and have not yet been fully defined.

Whatever the exact number -fourth, fifth or sixth- the next wave of coffee is often described as a focus on connectivity between producers and consumers. Such wave would create a more direct and transparent relationship between the people who grow and harvest coffee beans and those who ultimately drink the coffee.

In this context, the Next Wave of Coffee is seen as a natural progression from the previous waves, which have emphasized quality, sustainability, and customer experience. By fostering greater connectivity, the Next Wave seeks to promote a deeper understanding of the coffee supply chain, enabling consumers to make more informed choices and supporting a more equitable and sustainable coffee industry.

Some experts suggest that the Next Coffee Wave will involve a greater emphasis on technology, such as digital platforms and data analytics, to facilitate this connectivity and drive positive change throughout the coffee value chain. Others argue that it will be characterized by a renewed focus on the social and environmental impact of coffee, with consumers and roasters working together to create a more just and sustainable coffee industry.

While the exact contours of the Next Wave of coffee are still taking shape, it is clear that the coffee industry is undergoing a significant transformation, driven by changing consumer preferences, advances in technology, and a growing awareness of the need for sustainability and social responsibility. As the industry continues to evolve, the Next Coffee Wave is likely to play an important role in shaping the future of coffee and the lives of those who depend on it.


Creating a circle of prosperity

Social media and the Internet have allowed the coffee industry to interact in a much closer way, and have also helped to raise awareness about many challenges in producing countries such as climate change, price instability and migration, issues that directly affect producers and in effect, the quality of coffee.

It has become important to understand what is happening at origin, what the main challenges are and what each consumer can do to make more conscious and responsible purchasing decisions. Consumers in this way not only feel the pleasure of enjoying a fascinating coffee, but also trust in contributing to the reduction -even in a small proportion- of the environmental and social scourges that affect coffee production.

Connection in the next wave of coffee also comes with empathy, curiosity, science, humanity and ethics. There is a human call to act in a more ethical and conscious way in our relations with others and with the planet. The development of relationship-based trade can only be achieved through trust, and the only way to build trust is through transparency. The highest levels of trust occur when producers and buyers can be put on the same level with clear and transparent information. The next wave of coffee will be about being open about the business of coffee, the playbook of coffee, and the pricing of coffee.

The sentiment is widespread, we all want to buy and enjoy a good cup of coffee while learning about its complex science but we also want to make sure that with each purchase there is a positive impact. Creating a circle of prosperity seems to be a common goal in the next wave of coffee. And this is where both, roasters and coffee traders have a fundamental role to play.