The New Age of Coffee: Understanding the Coffee Waves

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Coffee is a popular drink around the world and is only becoming more attractive as innovations in cold brew and RTD coffee continue to appeal to younger consumers looking to indulge in new and exciting concepts.

While its growth in the last five years has been significant, we can track its popularity in waves dating back centuries. Coffee waves represent significant transitions in coffee culture, with each movement focusing on a different appreciation or change. We look at the five coffee waves from coffee to consume to the business of coffee.

Coffee to Consume
The first wave began in the early 1800s when coffee became an everyday commodity to the consumers all over the world. At this time, the coffee was primarily pre-ground, which was dark and bitter, receiving much criticism over the quality and taste. However, the first wave was an important step forward for the coffee industry in terms of packaging, getting coffee to the consumer, along with the development of domestic coffee-making appliances, which also encouraged the explosion of coffee.

The Lifestyle of Coffee
In the mid-1990s, the second wave of coffee became more refined, as there was a focus on better quality coffee. Consumers wanted to know more about where their coffee came from. Coffee terms such as ‘espresso’ and ‘latte’ became known as coffee became customised. A wide variety of milks and syrups became available, appealing to individual taste palates.

This second wave was also the beginning of the rise of coffee shops, such as Starbucks, which created an environment for consumers to go out and enjoy coffee as an acceptable leisure activity.

Artisan Production
The third wave was all about style, leading to the production of higher-quality coffee in the 1990s. The origin of the coffee bean and sourcing transparency became a heavy focus, along with artisan methods of production, leading to the rise of craft coffee. The third wave also premiumised brewing methods for cold coffee varieties as told by Mintel, with cold brew, nitro and RTD coffees available on tap, appealing very much to the millennial generation.
According to Euromonitor International, typical third wave consumers are most likely to be interested in making sure that their coffee is fair trade, which indicates the growing demand for sustainable and ethical brands for younger consumers.

The Science of Coffee
The fourth wave of coffee focused on the science of coffee, which began in mid-2010, as custom in-house roasting shifted from love to an obsession. Craft coffee continued momentum backed by heavy marketing and budgets, along with RTD coffees and cold brews being readily available in even independent coffee shops.

The Business of Coffee
The fifth wave is the latest shift in coffee, combining a combination of waves with professionalism. It began in mid-2010 as the business of coffee, with smart boutique concepts or ‘micro-chains’ offering premium quality coffees. The fifth wave is about creating new and exciting experiences for the individual consumer, as well as offering convenience and quality. Allegra World Coffee Portal stated, “In the future, market leading chains will need to demonstrate a capacity for innovation and an adaptability in order to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

Finding Your Coffee Solution
We proudly source our coffee from all the major producing countries and regions, offering both Arabica and Robusta. Our ethical credentials, From Fair Trade Organic to Rainforest Alliance Certified give piece of mind to those consumers who want to drink good coffee, while doing good. To find how we can create the perfect coffee solution for you, please email