Macy Halford dared to bring up the term “coffee’s fourth wave” this week in an article about coffee shop philosophy and mission. The discussion concerned the activities of the coffee shop in its neighborhood and in third world coffee producing communities, as well as the difficulty in remaining an independent and at the same time enjoying and promoting growth. Also discussed was the way today’s leading coffee shops and small chains get out and do something beyond selling their coffee. It’s commendable and inspiring that businesses such as coffee shops have owners with consciences, or just plain good sense. More than one successful shop reaches out to the coffee farmers and helps support the co-ops that are bringing needed services and support to the third world and thus raising their quality of life. Everything from washing stations to bathrooms are being provided the co-ops. It’s good for business, as these upgrades improve the coffee quality, but mostly it’s good for the farmer. One shop’s staffmember has written a book about these and other aspects of the coffee shop culture and its ethos and outreach. One point made is the idea of terroir, a term adopted from the wine industry. It basically comes down to the idea that coffee plants are influenced by the environment in which they grow. In this way, a given coffee can be an expression of a place. A whole world develops around this coffee and place. This is all very third wave. Many coffee lovers out there just love the coffee, or the energy it gives, but don’t like the philosophy and analytical placement of coffee into waves. This is a discussion in itself. And there are those who like nothing more than to sit down with coffee to enjoy and also discuss the whys and ways of waves and beans and yes - terroir. Today’s coffee culture is an amazing world, from taste to community outreach to philosophy. Whether you like philosophizing over your espresso or not, enjoy your favorite brew. And relax; the fourth wave isn’t really coming just yet. It’s just already on some caffeinated minds as to what shape it’ll take.
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