The 4th Wave Of Coffee Is (Almost?) Here: A Critical Introduction
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd waves (the favourite of all), have inevitably led the coffee industry at this juncture. Things, hardly, would have been the same in any other order.
Everything has led us to this moment, where we welcome the fourth wave of coffee evolution.
But first, let's understand the pervious waves in brief.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Waves
The first wave made us adopt coffee, the way we drink it today. It also marked the birth of instant coffee. Which contributed by spreading like wildfire.
Then, the second wave made us embrace the different flavour profiles. We discovered there's more to this magical drink than bitterness. It was around this same time, the Starbucks revolution happened too.
And then came our favourite, the third wave. The most popular of them all. Which entire world embraced with open arms. This is the time when we understood the difference between single-origins and blends, started valuing transparency and advanced more in technology than we ever did. There was a phenomenal rise in the number of brewing equipment. And the Indian coffee culture progressed, coming at par with the world.
And Now the Fourth Wave
The Corona Virus will be a significant marker in this transition. Although it won't be the sole cause in this shift.
First, we'll look at major changes we can expect in this new wave. And then about the effect of the Corona Virus on the industry as a whole and in this transition.
What to Expect in the 4th wave?
This new wave should revolve around a few significant pillars: coffee education, transparency, ethical sourcing, and convenience.
Coffee education has already caught a lot of wind. But we expect to see it happening even more. The third wave has left a lot of people in awe of coffee—their discovery of its complexity and multi-dimensionality, and hence a longing to know even more.
While we already have moved to source coffee beans ethically, the focus on this aspect will be more and more. So will be the transparency between the planters, roasters, and the consumers.
As a result, we might see an incremental rise in Fair-trade certifications. As a result of which, we might see farmer issues being addressed.
Naturally, like in any other wave, we expect to see new brewing methods being invented.
Convenience will be one of the biggest focuses of this wave. What we will see is brewing becoming more frictionless. The no-equipment niche is a child of this need. And, we'll be talking about it in a bit.
The Corona Effect
The virus's relation to the industry has been somewhat bitter-sweet. It has temporarily shut some doors while permanently opening a few.
The temporarily shut doors obviously include coffee shops. And the opened ones are the roastery-to-home bean delivery business and the no equipment brewing businesses. This is not to say that other niches have not benefitted. But the significant benefactors are the former two.
Now, one crucial thing to understand is that the virus might have been the cause, but the accelerator of this growth. But the role still has been an equally important one, nonetheless.
Let's look at the bean roastery-to-home bean delivery businesses first. Now this niche existed well before the pandemic. But it has grown many folds amid the lockdown. This space is primarily dominated by companies Blue Tokai, Flying Squirrel, Black Baza, Quick Brown Fox and many more roasters.
While their sales may drop, when things return to normal, they will still continue strong.
To manually brew coffee, you require some equipment. It may be something relatively low cost as a v60 or could be an expensive espresso machine. You would need some essential investment to begin. As a result of this, equipment sales have seen a hike too.
Coming to the no-equipment coffee companies. They have also been exposed to a lot of growth lately. Although this niche is relatively new and less crowded. We only have a handful of companies like Sleepy Owl, Beanly and somewhat even Blue Tokai.
Some might say Instant Coffee belongs to this same niche. I wouldn't entirely agree with that. It is an industry in itself, and much bigger than the speciality coffee industry. Lately, there have been a few advances there, with companies like Rage.