So there’s a lot of independent coffee roasters out there today who are very vigilant for equality, fair trade, sustainable practices. And all of these are key terms for this day and age anyway. And so they’re able to kind of hold the limelight for the coffee industry. And there’s been a dividing line between what was viewed as second wave and now what is viewed as third wave.
The Three Waves Of Coffee
The First Wave consisted of the mass marketer who made it their mission to increase consumption of coffee and put it into every kitchen.
It’s easy to see them as profit-driven. Most of their innovations included revolutions in packaging, like airtight cans, that made it easier to get coffee to the consumer.
First Wavers were responsible for turning coffee into a major commodity and began the process of marketing coffee for flavor. Juan Valdez, “good to the last drop” and “gourmet coffee” are all remnants of the First Wave of coffee culture.
The Second Wave of coffee was artisan-driven. It focused on coffee origins and roasting styles, and, though Rothgeb doesn’t say so, engendered much of the coffee snobbery that still partly defines certain corners of the Third Wave.
The big names of Second Wave coffee are household names, including Peet’s and Starbucks—both of which started as small specialty coffee shops and expanded into global enterprises.
The Second Wave was also responsible for the introduction of espresso beverages “to the world,” according to Nick Cho (also of Wrecking Ball), the elevation of Arabica and the contemporary emphasis on coffee quality overall.
Along the way, the need for consistency, scale and branding led to homogeneity. Rothgeb postulated in her article that it was this homogeneity—or, rather, a rebellion against it—that birthed the Third Wave.
Nick Cho, founder of Murky Coffee and, more recently, Rothgeb’s partner at Wrecking Ball Coffee, wrote in 2005 that he usually refers to “the ‘Third Wave’ as letting coffee speak for itself…the Third Wave is about enjoying coffee for what it is.”
In the decade since Cho wrote his critique, the Third Wave has become much more mainstream, bringing with it a harvest of roasters who take pride in the artisanal quality of their coffees and who label their bags with the kind of information today’s coffee consumers increasingly expect: farm, harvest, processing style, roast date, coffee variety and tasting notes.
The typical Third Wave coffee consumer is no longer content with a coffee brand or even with coffee sourced from a specific country or region. Instead, he wants the same level of detail that wine connoisseurs have demanded for decades.
One might see this trend as part of a larger wave of consumer advocacy and enthusiasm, manifested in the desire to know as much as possible about the origins of the foods and products we consume.
Where to drink coffee in Seattle?
1 Milstead & Co.
One of the most respected coffee shops in the city, Milstead and Co. has reopened in its original location, in a new development, after using a temporary shop for the last year and a half. As always, Milstead’s rotating cast of roasters keeps things interesting, and the staff is always ready to offer an education with every pour.
770 N 34th St
Seattle, WA 98103
2 Craftworks Coffee
Craftworks launched on Lower Queen Anne this summer with the aim of being “Seattle’s ultimate coffee bar.” The concept boils down to an educational coffee drinking experience: While you learn about the product, you can order from a rotating menu of coffee from Pacific Northwest micro-roasters, including cold brew and nitro coffee on tap plus a selection of non-caffeinated beverages. Atelier Drome, the architecture firm responsible for a whole slew of sexy restaurants, is behind the cafe design.
110 Republican St
Seattle, WA 98109
3 La Marzocco Cafe
If you’ve ever had an espresso, there’s a good chance your barista poured it from a La Marzocco machine. In April, the 89-year-old manufacturer opened its first ever public cafe and showroom in global radio sensation KEXP’s new home in Seattle Center. The shop features one roaster-in-residence each month and serves a variety of baked goods from The London Plane, while the showroom features an Espresso Lab for home enthusiasts to learn more about the equipment and even take classes. There are even historical archives and vintage machines on display.
472 1st Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
4 Ghost Note Coffee
Ghost Note Coffee replaces the Broadcast Coffee shop on Bellevue Ave. Broadcast is still providing the beans, and the tables still have those handy outlets, but the entire experience is stepped up a notch or two. Among the new touches are handmade ceramic mugs, each one unique; seasonal beverages; and locally-made treats like coffee-flour pastries and toasts with various spreads.
1623 Bellevue Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
5 Navy Strength
Tropical fruit and espresso join forces at Navy Strength Coffee and Juice, the daytime alternative to Chris and Anu Elford’s Navy Strength tiki bar in Belltown. The menu consists of espresso drinks using beans from Olympia Coffee; chai lattes and a cold brew “dark and stormy,” both on nitro; and a handful of juice blends called “restoratives” which are made from the fruits and syrups that also appear in the cocktails next door. For hotter days, there’s also a frozen juice blend called Road Trip to Somewhere that combines matcha, mint, pineapple, and lime.
2505 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98121