The 5th wave of coffee

The term coffee wave refers to a specific period of time in which the evolution of the coffee market shares the same characteristics. In a nutshell, the waves can be described as following:

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.

2nd wave – Branded chains.

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

3rd wave – Artisan coffee.

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

4th wave – Science.

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

The Fifth wave of coffee

And then, more recently, there is the 5th wave of coffee. The fifth wave of coffee combines 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 has as a consequence a unique characteristic of the fifth wave: the connection.

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. In this approach 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 fifth 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 fifth wave of coffee is 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 is an increasingly common goal in the fifth wave of coffee. And this is where both, roasters and coffee traders have a fundamental role to play.