Coffee’s Third Wave Hits UK

The UK’s learning curve about coffee’s exploding growth in popularity brought on by the first and second wave moved exceptionally fast. In the last thirty years Britain’s coffee sophistication has developed such that they now realize they ride the third wave. We might go so far as to call this phenomena the “geeking” of the UK. The Guardian ran an article discussing the coffee “phases” and how the UK is now learning about the third phase/wave. According to the writer, the third wave looks more analytically at the coffee farms and their location, the coffee’s origin and the different flavors that result from different regions. Credit is given to the independent coffee shops for driving this education and understanding. Another factor mentioned is that of foreign travel, opening up eyes and taste buds to new coffee understandings and concepts. In forty years, the UK has gone from instant coffee to a bitter “continental blend” of darkly roasted beans, to espresso and lattes, and now to filters. In the last ten years the number of branded coffee chains went from 1382 to 4645. Unbelievably, this year that number is expected to rise to 14,842. It is pointed out that this is despite a rise in coffee prices occurring at the same time. UK’s third wave is seen as a realization that origins matter. The bean will develop with different character in different soils, climates and micro-climates. Harvesting and processing are also factors in bean quality. Says one coffee official: "There is a whole world of different flavors to discover from different coffee-growing communities. Consumers are starting to understand this more and more, and are experimenting with different origins.” They’re also learning at home, as the in-home coffee market grew 17% in value over the past five years. This growth was partly driven by the switch from jars of instant to more expensive brewing equipment. If the UK’s new coffee culture popularity continues its current growth, the question might be asked: Will a new tradition develop to replace High Tea, called “High Coffee”?

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