There has been a drastic change in coffee-drinking habits since specialty coffee started hitting the scene. The growth of specialty coffee has been skyrocketing.
The period of growth is known as “The Third Wave” of coffee
The First Wave started when coffee was initially made for mass consumption around the 1960s. This is when more and more people started to drink it daily. The Second Wave occurred when a lot of the larger chains started to not only improve the quality of the coffee, but they started to make it more of an experience.
The Third Wave (the one we currently find ourselves in) is when drinkers have started to truly notice and appreciate the taste and the production that goes into the coffee. Nowadays, you can pick and choose from different coffee by region, process, taste profile, and more. Consumers are on-board with specialty coffee like never before.
Coffee Has Grown Much Like Wine
It wasn’t long ago when we had German and French wine. There were common wines that you may have known the names of and French wines that had some of the most forgettable names.
The majority of consumers chose the wines based on the price they wanted to pay and the label. No one truly knew what was in the bottle.
Nowadays, you will find wines that are from different regions and that feature different types ranging from Malbecs from Chile to Aussie Shiraz. More wine consumers now understand the differences between them. For instance, you might know that Le Piat D’Or is a very affordable wine but it wouldn’t be a wine that you would take to a dinner party to impress friends or family.
Also, consumers have grown to understand the differences between a £15 bottle of wine that you find at the market and one that is only £4.99.
When you go out on a first date, you’re likely going to go for the more expensive wines to impress them. Consumers are conscious of the differences that exist between cheap and more expensive wine.
Coffee Has Become The Same Way
- Coffee used to be much like the early days of wine. Every place would serve the same coffee and it was either strong or diluted. No one knew what was in their cup nor did they care as much. Buy Kopi Luwak if you enjoy the finer things in life.
Nowadays, more consumers are spending more time and money in specialty coffee shops like Starbucks or Cafe Nero than they do in pubs. They are also more conscious of what’s in their cup when they visit these shops.
Despite a lot of these shops serving fancier versions of plain coffee, it’s still plain coffee at the end of the day. This coffee is manufactured for mass consumption. After all, they need to make money. They do this by standardizing everything sort of like ordering house wine at a restaurant.
However, coffee drinkers’ tastes are becoming more sophisticated and they are demanding more at home. They are moving on from instant coffee and are instead buying real beans and grinding it themselves.
A lot of people don’t even purchase their coffee from retail shops any longer. Instead, they are buying them from roasters. While the fancy-sounding brands like Lavaza and Illy sounded exotic, they’ve been outclassed by some of the micro-batch manufacturers like Lazy Sunday.
However, more and more consumers are becoming increasingly aware that these are primarily blends and that they aren’t specialty coffee. This is much like the lower end of the market when you are looking at wines. These coffees are typically roasted to the point where there is little taste difference between the beans.
Essentially, You Replace Roast Level With “How Burnt?”
In a lot of these bags, you won’t even find a “roasted on” date because they aren’t made to be fresh. They use vacuum-sealed bags to keep the beans from going bad. Once ground, coffee can go stale relatively quickly. Therefore, it’s hard to know how long the beans have been sitting on the shelves and in transit.
Consumers are learning more and more that larger companies with more famous brands are buying their coffee beans through the commodities market at the lowest price. They are realizing that the farmers aren’t getting their fair share of the market.
Fairtrade does have its issues. After all, quality isn’t the result of the system. Typically, it creates more production of lower-quality coffee that consumers aren’t asking for. This ends up making it a lot worse for the farmers in the long run because the demand doesn’t meet the supply.
How About Taste?
This is where massive changes are happening in the market. As with wine, more and more consumers are realizing what to expect when it comes to taste.
I’ll go into more about how coffee drinkers’ tastes are changing in another post. However, if you want to see a good selection of specialty coffee available right now, you can do so here.