You’ve probably already read about the “3rd wave” of coffee on the café-web, without necessarily paying much attention to it. But what is this wave really all about? What are the previous ones?
Even if it has to be admitted that today the term is much less widely used than in the 2010s, in favor of the term ” specialty”, it remains an important notion in the history of coffee consumption around the world through its Anglo-Saxon culture.
Obviously, we can’t reduce the history of coffee and its consumption patterns around the world and through the ages to 3 simple periods that are actually rather close together. These periods describe consumption patterns typical of Anglo-Saxon countries, mainly the USA.
In a nutshell:
- The first wave was the democratization of coffee as a mass consumer product.
- The second wave is the democratization of the notion oforigin and coffee-shops.
- The third wave is the democratization of the notion of terroir and specialty, and the advent of gentle methods.
But let’s take a closer look at the origins of each of these waves and their impact on production and consumption habits.
- D’une simple pression, la fonction One Touch permet de préparer expresso, café…
- Paramétrez l’intensité (3 niveaux) et la finesse de mouture (5 niveaux) de…
- Le système Latte Perfection double l’émulsion du lait pour obtenir une mousse…
- L’italian process ou le procédé de préparation authentique permet de…
The first wave
The approximate beginning of the first wave of mass consumption of coffee dates back to the 19th century, with the appearance of ground and roasted coffee.
Here, the focus is on the coffee itself.
It’s hot, it’s fast and it wakes you up.
And that’s all we ask.
The coffee is prepared in a siphon, Italian or cotton filter coffee maker, or simply finely ground and mixed with unfiltered water.
The second wave
It began in the 1970s with the appearance of two elements:
- The first automatic filter coffee maker, the Mr Coffee in 1972
- The start of Starbucks and co. in 1971
Consumption therefore takes place either in the home, in large coffee makers to be shared in the home or as instant coffee, or during the day, in specialist espresso-based drinks outlets, mainly for takeaway.
It is during this period that consumers become aware of the differences between different origins, which become selling points.
The Third Wave
The term was first used in the early 2000s.
However, in the consumer segment, we see an explosion in the use of the term to designate the period starting in 2002 with the creation of Blue Bottle then in 2004 with the world championship victory for Tim WendelboeThis has led to less advanced roasts and a greater focus on terroir.
In terms of sought-after qualities, the focus is now on traceability and terroir, right down to the name of the farm and the farmer.
The focus is on transformation and transport processes, and on lighter roasts to reflect the terroir of the beverage.
In terms of consumption, it’s the renaissance of gentle manual methods. Consumers invest in the product and its preparation.
With the launch of the V60 in 2004 and the Aeropress in 2005, manual brewing methods, which had been abandoned in favor of automatic coffee makers, were restored to their former glory.
A 4th wave?
It’s true, if you spend a little time on social networks, you’ll quickly come across establishments claiming to be 4th wave or even 5th wave…
I haven’t found any specific evidence of a 4th wave, let alone a 5th.
So I’m going to invite you to consider such notions as marketing arguments only.
The closest thing to a convincing argument is the significant increase in the consumption of cold coffee drinks (in the USA), which are replacing traditional sodas.
Most of the other arguments are about culture and origin, about the science of extraction…
Except that what we call waves are – and I insist – consumer habits (mainly American).
And these habits haven’t changed much since the 3rd wave.
What is certain, however, is that the 3rd wave is maturing its approach, its methods and its products year after year. But it’s still up to the future to bring about such a radical and massive change in coffee consumption that it deserves to be called a “wave”.
And in France?
However, if we look over our shoulder on our continent and more specifically in France, we quickly realize that these 3 waves don’t correspond to much over here.
Typically, the influence of the chains is much less here. Few people bring coffee back to the office for colleagues from the café down the block, because it simply doesn’t exist here.
However, if we were to define 3 waves of changes in coffee consumption in France, we’d inevitably end up with the same dates. Post-World War II cultural changes are taking place in unison across the globalized Western world, but curiously not always for the same reasons.
I am neither a historian nor a sociologist, but through my research (and after crossing my sources with the memories of two generations of coffee drinkers before me), here is what I can offer as an interpretation of the 3 waves of coffee in France:
1945: American influence strengthens the culture of filter coffee at home. The automatic filter coffee maker is gradually becoming a household standard.
But France’s proximity toItaly preserves our taste forespresso, which we bring closer to the filter, with very long recipes compared to Italian ristrettos.
The espresso lungo on the zinc counter is French working-class culture flourishing in a country undergoing reconstruction. The owners of the many neighborhood cafés make most of their sales before 8am with coffees… and “pousse cafés”.
It was during this period that industrial roasters began to appear, and ground coffee became readily available, as did soluble coffee, which had been developed during the war.
The 70s saw the development of the middle class and COGIP-type office jobs.
In conjunction with a favorable real estate market, this new class is settling in the suburbs.
These towns have very few shops, and often only basic necessities such as tobacconists, bakeries, pharmacies and supermarkets. The rare cafés were only remnants from before this massive urban development, and were still mostly frequented by the now minority working class.
For this class of workers, taking a coffee break between home and work is out of the question: the first coffee, a filter, is taken with the family at home, and subsequent coffees are taken at work, thanks to vending machines.
The coffee break at work has become such an important socializing mechanism that a comedy series, “Caméra Café”, was dedicated to it in 2001.
During this period, going to the café became a more bourgeois, slower activity. Where once the upper classes entertained at home for coffee, since they were the only ones who could afford a domestic espresso machine, now it’s a case of going to the café to think, write, work – in short, to be seen.
We go there to stay, sometimes accompanied, for more or less productive hours.
This period and these habits will continue without too much movement until 2005, with the arrival on the market of the future giant Nespresso.
Nespresso arrives with two formidable weapons:
The promise of elegance and luxury through the consumption of a fine product.
The massive marketing campaign is designed to show thatespresso is a complex, intense beverage with an infinite number of variants, a top-of-the-range tasting product that can now be enjoyed on its own, at home.
The printer business model.
In fact, machine purchase prices are ridiculously low, which means that the number of domestic coffee makers can be quickly covered. Everyone gives a coffee maker to their father, uncle, grandparents etc…
To reach prices so low they’re considered “gifts”, coffee makers are made from poor-quality materials and components, which quickly break down after a few months of more or less intensive use in imperfect conditions. These coffee makers do not use a water filter. They clog up and break fairly quickly.
And when the machine breaks down, it’s much cheaper to buy a new one than to repair the old one. What’s more, they come out with 3 different models a year, always more compact or designer, so there’s something for everyone!
All these people need to buy capsules, which are overpriced and produced exclusively by the brand. Attempts by independent manufacturers to replicate the capsule market result only in capsules that work poorly with coffee makers and are therefore shunned by consumers.
Suffice to say, this aggressiveness drives a nail into the coffin of small neighborhood cafés.
At the same time, a counter-culture of coffee began to develop across the Channel, as explained above.
In 2005 , specialty coffee arrived in France with the opening of La Caféothèque in Paris. This pool of enthusiasts has directly or indirectly spawned most of the great names in French specialty coffee today.
However, in our country, these consumption methods and habits will remain drastically in the minority.
What about today?
Things haven ‘t changed much today. Most people drinkespresso at home, via Nespresso or automatic bean-to-cup machines, and other coffees at work in the break room.
Cafés remain more or less bourgeois socializing establishments in the same way as tea rooms. We always go there to stay a long time, consuming little but expensive.
What do you think? Are there any other events or changes in consumption that you consider important? Ask your parents or grandparents if they’ve experienced these changes!