What are the three waves of coffee?

In your search for a delicious, sustainable cup of coffee, you may come across references to the three waves of coffee. If you are wondering what these terms mean and what differs between them, read on and let Pure Origin help explain the history of the coffee trade!

What are the three waves of coffee?

A “wave” of coffee refers to a time period or stage within the industry. So far, coffee has been through three appropriately named stages: the First, Second, and Third Waves. Each of these are significantly different from another in a few critical ways. The First Wave marked the Western “discovery” of coffee as a consumer product in the 1800s and its growing consumption. The Second Wave came later in the 20th century as brands like Starbucks took the world by storm. Finally, the Third Wave has come in the 21st century as customers become more concerned about where their coffee comes from and how it is produced.

First Wave

The First Wave of coffee was certainly the longest, lasting from the 1800s to the end of the 1970s. It began with the Western world’s discovery of coffee and the realization that it could become a significant consumer good. Entrepreneurs hit it big as the trade exploded and coffee drinking became a daily occurrence for many. The hallmark of this wave came when coffee could be found in almost every household across the world. Coffee became commonplace, rather than a pricy luxury, and almost everyone from rich to poor began drinking it.

At this stage, customers were not very aware about the specific flavors of their coffee or its origin. As long as the caffeine was strong, coffee sales continued to explode. This was, of course, a time rife with environmental and economic exploitation. Farmers did not tend to their land sustainably, instead maximizing productivity and minimally investing in environmentally friendly practices. Additionally, wages for most farmers remained very poor, even though coffee continued to be sold at a huge markup. As a result, the industry continued to thrive, even though farmers and the environment began to suffer.

Second Wave

The Second Wave of coffee took place largely because of that most famous of coffee companies: Starbucks. As the huge company began to have more influence and invested huge chunks of money in marketing during the 1970s and beyond, consumers began to seek out specific flavors and varieties. They became increasingly appreciative of their coffee and aware of its attributes. Some began to crave dark roasts, while others preferred light ones. Flavored coffee also began to boom, particularly seasonal products. Providing high-quality coffee soon became a necessity, edging budget and lower-quality brands out of the market. The industry was looking for opportunities to capitalize on this trend, and coffee finally became a worldwide phenomenon.

In this wave, the outlook for farmers and the environment continued to be bleak. Despite the rise of massive coffee corporations, farmers continued to receive a low price for every bean. If they refused to sell their crop cheaply, influential companies would simply move on to another farm. The insatiable need for coffee continued to contribute to less-than-sustainable farming practices. Additionally, the use of disposable cups and single-use packaging threatened the environment further as customers threw away millions of cups and bags a year.

Third Wave

Now, as we continue the Third Wave of coffee, customers care more and more about the conditions by which they receive their favorite hot drink. Specialty coffees are extremely popular, both for the unique and specific flavors they offer, but also for the opportunity for social activism. Now that they have so many choices, sophisticated coffee lovers feel they should have a say in how their beans are grown, harvested, and produced. With their buying power, they are increasingly choosing coffee brands that make a commitment to sustainability.

With the increasing attention paid to global warming, customers are allowing companies like Pure Origin to make a difference when it comes to sustainable coffee production. Rather than maximizing land usage, farmers on sustainable farms tend to the land and rotate crops to avoid saturation. Water resources are cherished and contaminants and pollution have been lessened. The world is far from recovered, but sustainable companies have begun to make a dent in the world’s pollution.

Additionally, awareness of poverty and poor working conditions has made coffee drinkers opt for brands that compensate farmers fairly. Truly sustainable brands pay their farmers a premium price, and farmers in exchange commit to sustainable practices. Everyone benefits from this arrangement, particularly growers, coffee customers, and consumers. Even the world has gotten a boost from this wave, as coffee lovers have begun to make a difference in the world with their purchases. As a result, companies like Pure Origin now offer coffee for people, like us, that care.

Why Pure Origin

Pure Origin is proud to be a part of the Third Wave of coffee, where every sale can make a difference in the world. We are sustainable impact, which means that we commit to fair and equitable practices in the environment and in the world. We pay our farmers a premium price for the bean and help fund workshops that allow them to learn more.

All of our coffee is also single origin, and comes from one specific farm or sets of farms. This allows us to have a closer relationship with our growers and help them deal with specific challenges. It also helps us assure our customers that they can pinpoint exactly where our coffee comes from.

Our Causes

Similarly, every sale of our coffee goes towards an important cause in coffee-producing regions of the world. Our Congolese coffee benefits Mighty Peace Coffee, a movement seeking to end mineral conflict in the country. Our Indonesian coffee helps support Coop Reje Gayo, a center that provides education and training on coffee cultivation techniques. In Honduras, we work with small family farms to help them make strides in the competitive industry. That way, you can choose one of our coffees for its roast or for the cause you prefer!

In this Third Wave of coffee, we realize you have a huge range of choices when it comes to your coffee. That’s why we have tried to be the change we wanted to see in the world. We started with sustainability as a mission statement and built our company around it. So, if you are like us and want to make a difference while enjoying a delicious hot brew, order Pure Origin coffee today!

Thank you for empowering growers at origin! With every story read, cup poured, and coffee sipped – you’re connecting with the world. 
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