3rd Wave Coffee (What exactly is it?)

Third Wave provides a cup of coffee to appreciate.

Third Wave is a term for the goods of a coffee industry comprised of cafes and other coffee enterprises.

It was launched sometime between 2000 and now and has a common goal which is to provide consumers with high-quality cups of coffee.

Some local coffee shops struggle to manage their business in the long run because the entrepreneurs don’t wholly understand consumer preferences in the third wave coffee era.

But what exactly is third wave coffee? Is it really that important?

Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered!

This article will provide you with some interesting and informative knowledge on Third Wave Coffee.

Let’s get started!

What is Meant by the Term Third Wave Coffee?

In general, third wave coffee focus on direct trade, sustainability, innovative brewing methods, and lighter roast profiles.

The third wave focuses on stories behind your cup of coffee created by producers, roasters, and baristas. And that explains why the third wave coffee is indeed distinctive!

The Emergence of Third Wave Coffee

At present, consumers consider the origins of high-end goods as part of a quality experience.

Coffee is the most consumed flavored beverage at present with increasing interest in its consumption.

It’s a significant commodity, not only for national economies but also, at the micro-social scale, as a source for interpersonal sociability. 

Trish Rothgeb, the person behind the term “third wave coffee,” commented in an interview that it was not meant to be the term for the industry to interact amongst itself, but rather a method to draw customers into their world and let them communicate

She appropriated the term from feminist writers who adopted the terminology of waves to distinguish movements within the larger struggle for women’s rights and empowerment.

Rothgeb said that the first and second waves of coffee failed to produce consistently high-quality cups.

This new, third wave is comprised of “any store striving to be whatever it wants to be as long as it is true to itself” and delivers on the promise of excellence, according to her.

Coffee itself is a concept that is a unifying focus of, and for, such sociability within a subculture of particular coffee connoisseurs.

The remarkable growth in coffee consumption was referred to as the Third Wave Coffee Era or the Third Wave Coffee Movement which is a subculture centered on high-quality coffee.

The Essence of Third Wave Coffee

Third Wave Coffee built sophistication through its product differentiation.

In principle, it’s establishing a new type of connection between coffee producers and those who sell and consume coffee around the globe.

The third wave symbolizes a breakthrough in specialty coffee consumption, characterized by changes in product differentiation and consumer experience.

Coffee is seen as an artisanal product as sophisticated as wine in the third wave and can be distinguished by a variety of characteristics.

There is an observable effort at resemblance among producers and end-consumers in the value chain.

The differentiation extends beyond a higher quality coffee bean to also include:

  • limited availability
  • specialty varieties
  • coffee origin
  • farmers’ historical techniques of harvest and processing
  • environmental and social concerns

With the third wave of the coffee chain, the paradigm is being strengthened by the growing demand for specialty coffee from specialized cafes and selective customers.

There is a significant gap among producers and end-consumers in the traditional coffee value chain, and the journey from “bean to cup” is complicated.

The Effect of Third Wave Coffee

After the second and third waves, consumption experience transpired and the market for high-quality beans surged.

The third wave has been characterized by technological impacts, global market policies, changes in competitive strategy, a rise in knowledge as an economic resource, and other features of enterprises.

According to the conclusions of a study, “Third Wave Coffee” focuses on custom, fresher, and high-quality coffee production.

In the third wave coffee era, consumer preferences favor local forms and not Western cafes which is the result of sociocultural restructuring.

According to one research, before deciding whether to buy or not, consumers are in the assessment phase, where they establish preferences among brands with a set of choices.

Consumer preferences to change, delay or refrain from making purchasing decisions are also heavily impacted by potential risk.

Furthermore, the number of coffee consumers in urban areas who are young, educated, and culturally aware influences consumer preferences in the coffee industry of this era, leading to a new type of urbanism.

Coffee shops in urban areas serve as a venue for working, socializing, leisure, and recreation in addition to coffee consumption.

The concept of coffee drinking experience in the third wave era is an idea with experience that emphasizes coffee features focusing on profound authentication with the place of origin, elevations, variations, processing methods, and also flavor description.

Additionally, consumers anticipate cafés to offer high-profile goods which reflect production, creative consumption, artisanal, and aesthetics.

As a result, Specialty Coffee Bars (SCBs) emerge.

Unlike the previous waves, Third Wave Specialty Coffee Bars add value to coffee by ascertaining where the beans originate from, how the seeds are processed, and how the coffee is presented or served.

Coffee origin has become one of the most significant variables in the third wave period, suggesting that consumer preferences in the coffee business have evolved.

Searching for exotic coffee beans has become trendy in this modern age.

The term single-origin started to surface during this period, and worldwide coffee consumption habits changed as well.

Global Supply Chain (GSC) is one of the concepts adopted to address important global trends, according to Coffee Global Supply Chain.

GSC is particularly interested in expanding the involvement of retailers and brands in the development of global manufacturing, distribution, and marketing networks.

Baristas and cafés are growing closer to producers in the third wave of coffee, seeking high-quality coffee variety to improve production methods and serve consumers better.

These producers began roasting and selling their own coffee beans, resulting in better pricing of their goods and higher value-in-use and relational value across the chain. 

This movement helps to foster a more collaborative connection between intermediaries along the value chain, improving value appropriation for producers.

Discover more by watching this video.

Is Peet’s Coffee Third Wave?

No. Peet’s Coffee is classified under second wave coffee, not third wave.

Alfred Peet opened the doors of his coffee shop, Peet’s Coffee, in Berkeley, California, on April 1, 1966, which discreetly started a revolution that transformed the expectations of American coffee lovers.

The second wave is widely assumed to have started with Peet’s Coffee then peaked with Starbucks in the 1990s.

The third wave, however, began around the 2000s. 

Therefore, Peet’s Coffee isn’t part of it!

Is Philz Third Wave?


In fact, Philz Coffee is a big name in third wave coffee world in the United States.

Philz Coffee is recognized for its unusual and uncommon beverages, such as the Mint Mojito Iced Coffee, the Tesora, and the Philtered Soul, as well as their bright and vibrant store ambiance.

Phil Jaber, a third-generation coffee tycoon, founded Philz Coffee in 2002 in the suburbs of San Francisco.

Jaber was inspired by his father and grandfather, who both owned coffee shops.

Jaber experimented with combining up to seven different types of coffee beans, finally producing 30+ new blends for his café, favoring the taste of multiple beans instead of one.

Jaber left his job as manager of a grocery store in 2003 to start Philz Coffee.

Philz Coffee is huge in third wave coffee world for various reasons:

  • Top Quality Coffee. The quality of coffee at Starbucks is incomparable to that of Blue Bottle or Philz.
  • Slow But Steady Growth. Rather than aggressively growing, Philz have concentrated on preserving the quality of their products.
  • Brand Loyalty. Philz have achieved international recognition through social media and have built a large fan base. It has net value of $400 million and have received $26 to 44 million in financing.
  • San Francisco. Philz began in the Bay Area but are well-known across the world for their distinct cultures.

What Is the 4th Wave of Coffee?

The future of the coffee industry holds so much potential.

The Fourth Wave is still being characterized, although it has much of the same fundamental ideas as the third wave; but without the hipster snobbery.

The first wave was all about consuming regular old instant coffee at home or in your neighborhood café.

Café culture and the rise of Starbucks dominated the second wave.

In the third wave, coffee producers gained control over their own specialty coffee, offering high-quality cups.

Producers are rising to the spotlight in an era of sustainability and social responsibility. 

Consumers are becoming more quality-conscious and conscientious, and this balance characterizes the fourth wave of coffee.

It’s also being fueled by better-informed consumers, and it is aimed primarily towards producers, roasters, and aficionados.

To put it simply, the fourth wave will become the result of years of New Wave improvements on existing systems. It’s all about delivering a fresh abundance of new ideas that will not only enrich but completely revolutionize the coffee experience.

Who Started the Third Wave Coffee?

Trish Rothgeb, a well-experienced coffee roaster for over 25 years, is acknowledged for inventing the term “Third Wave Coffee”.

She had no idea it would help define an entire period in the coffee business.

Specialty Coffee Bars are the pioneers of the third wave coffee shops, designed to suit the needs of coffee aficionados.

Third wave coffee is a phenomenon that has resulted in independent coffee shops, independent roasteries, and home-based subcultures.

It emphasizes:

  • expertise 
  • sensory experience 
  • face-to-face communication
  • community in its most traditional domains 
  • modern technologies 
  • Internet as a forum for discussion, social planning, product reviews, and so on

When Did the Third Wave of Coffee Begin?

Waves of the Coffee industry have distinctive characteristics.

The Third Wave began in the United States in the 2000s.

So, if we’re to comprehend how and when the third wave of coffee began, we should first recognize how and when the first wave and second wave started.

First Wave: Coffee to Consume

Around the 1940s, the introduction of instant coffee marked the first wave of coffee.

It highlights the emergence of low-quality coffee after World War II with the concept of making coffee more readily available to everyone, at the expense of quality. 

The first wave of economic transformation began with the agricultural revolution.

Second Wave: Coffee to Enjoy

The second commonly thought to have begun with Peet’s Coffee and peaked with Starbucks in the 1990s. 

It’s characterized as a shift toward higher-quality beans, espresso-based beverages, and darker roasts.

Because people sought to mend the issue that the first wave had created, the second wave was established to enhance coffee quality, so it was epitomized by entrepreneurs mass-producing higher-quality espresso coffee for cafés and stores.

Third Wave: Coffee to Appreciate

In the United States, the third wave began in the 2000s, when several coffee entrepreneurs thought that the coffee supplied by Starbucks and Peet’s did not achieve the quality they wanted.

Third wave coffee producers are characterized by their commitment to obtaining the greatest flavor and aroma from coffee in its purest form.

Moreover, they needed to find a means to compete with Starbucks, so they improved their coffee. That was the third wave, still concerned with coffee quality, albeit differently.

And most of all, coffee producers were able to make a more sustainable living during the third wave. 

Final Thoughts

The coffee industry truly has an impact on the operations of production, distribution, and marketing, all of which comprise the worldwide supply chain.

The third wave of the coffee industry, which has been continuously expanding, has sparked interest in coffee consumption through community, academic, and commercial experience.

These impacts have come to reveal the third generation of consumer preferences, and businesses have implemented various new strategies in response to the changes in these behaviors.

With all these overwhelming facts, third wave coffee is ultimately about passion and a desire for greatness. 

Through buying, brewing, and drinking coffee from roasters who reflect these fundamental principles, you have the opportunity to help drive the coffee industry in the right direction. 

And this is precisely what the third wave movement is really all about.

Indeed, the coffee world is evolving swiftly around us, and it’s quite a wonderful thing!

Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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