Many coffee connoisseurs talk about this most recent trend in coffee consumption as the “third wave” in coffee drinking. The first wave being instant coffee, sold and marketed for mass home or office consumption (think Folgers and Nescafé). The second wave was embodied by companies like Starbucks, Peets, The Coffee Bean, and their peers, whose business model focussed on satisfying consumers’ need for cheap coffee quickly. They made huge profits by offering coffee “beverages” – cold, hot, over ice, with straws and all kinds of syrups– in every size, flavour and combination imaginable. These “specialty” drinks, which often tasted nothing like coffee, was a clever way to mask the bitter taste of less-than-superior beans.
Instead, the new industry, or the “third wave” of coffee suppliers and stores, whose leaders are still “niche” names like San Francisco’s Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia from Chicago, Abaço in New York, and Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Oregon -- have conquered their food-savvy customers by roasting high-quality beans in tiny batches to preserve their freshness and flavour.
Just as the Slow Food movement encourages mindful dining, the slow-brewing movement aims to satisfy those that want less choice, more flavor, good business practices and fair trade. Their customers, who are increasing year by year as new locations open, seem to be willing to wait longer, pay more, and drink less (forget about the 31 oz. “Trenta” size from Starbucks).