Coffee History

4th wave coffee is here, but what does that mean, exactly? From cans of ground coffee lining grocery stores shelves to specialty coffee shops popping up, and everything in between, let’s explore the waves of coffee and how we came to enter the 4th wave.  

Creating Waves

The Evolution of Coffee

1st Wave Coffee

The first wave of coffee started in the 1800s, whenbrands such as Folgers and Maxwell House became household names, and cans of their ground coffee beans could be seen lining the grocery store shelves. Innovation in packaging and production allowed the coffee industry to grow exponentially by making coffee affordable and easily accessible. 

2nd Wave Coffee

The second wave came about in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and was a reaction to the mass produced, poor quality coffee of the 1st wave. This wave brought the notion that coffee is something to be enjoyed and experienced, rather than just a beverage. This wave introduced us to big chain coffee shops such as Starbucks, who began serving up specialty coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes. 

3rd Wave Coffee

The third wave came in the late 2000s/early 2010s and was a response to the chain coffee shops we saw in the 2nd wave. Local coffee shops that put an emphasis on craft and quality coffee emerged. They utilized premium brewing techniques such as the pour-over method, while also providing detailed information about the coffee we were consuming. These coffee shops celebrated the natural flavours of coffee, rather than the sugary drinks we consumed from 2nd wave coffee shops.

4th Wave Coffee

The fourth wave of coffee started around 2020, and focuses on brewing higher-quality, ethically sourced coffee at home. While the 3rd wave was a response to the 2nd wave, the 4th wave is more of the mass production and marketing of the 3rd wave. The main idea behind 4th wave coffee is scalability – putting better quality coffee into the hands of more people. We’re seeing this done through improving the accessibility of high-quality coffee, putting it on the shelves of chain grocery stores. Brick and mortar retail locations are also emerging, as well as online retail. It’s never been easier to enjoy a good, quality cup of coffee in your home, however you brew.