In part one, I touched on briefly BRIDGE COFFEE CO.'s contribution and place in the "Third Wave" and a little history of the "First Wave" and "Second Wave" of coffee.
Let's provide a little more info on the "Third Wave" of coffee and what it means.
While Peet's Coffee and Starbucks are given credit to the emergence and success of the "Second Wave" of coffee, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture Coffee, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters have been recognized as pioneers of the "Third Wave" of coffee.
Third wave coffee-
In 1982, the Specialty Coffee Association of America was formed. Since their inception, they have sought to define specialty coffee and provide standards by which coffee is to be best measured on. By establishing a standards to measure coffee quality, the whole of the industry would benefit from better pricing practices of a desired product. You paid for what you wanted. If you were interested in commodity coffee, you paid for commodity-grade coffee. If you wanted premium-grade specialty coffee, you knew that you would be required to pay the price for the better product. (Wow, that is way over-simplified of a very complex set of standards and goals! visit: www.scaa.org)
What constitutes specialty coffee? Well, that would encompass way more than one article of its own. Very simply, coffee that scores less than 80 points on the specialty coffee scoring system is considered commodity grade coffee. Those that score above that mark, earn specialty-grade status.
Taste is not the only factor in grading coffee. Yes, it is the final desired outcome, to have a better tasting cup of coffee is the goal. But the other factors of how coffee is produced, do factor into its score, and ultimately, how it tastes.
Coffee goes through so many different levels of quality control. Where its grown, (or better regarded as coffee terroir), how it is watered, fertilized, pest control, how it is picked, how it is sorted, how often it is sorted, the size, shape, color, how it is processed and milled, how it is packaged, etc., etc., etc. All of these coffee farming practices, and so many more, contributed to a coffee's specialty status.
Can you have bad green, specialty-grade coffee? Yes, but hopefully not. Can you have good commodity-grade coffee? Yes, but the challenge is in cupping and sampling.
Well, Starbucks sells a lot of coffee. Is it good? In some ways, it comes down to a matter of taste.
Unfortunately, greed and profiteering have been infectious in the world of coffee. As it is in most parts of the farming world, the farmer is not compensated in measure with the work they endure. Here in America, it is very common that the person making the label, the can, or the jar is making more money than the farmer cultivating the product you are going to eat inside it. In 2 Timothy 2 it says, "6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops." Not to take this out of context, but we are being instructed to do what is right and honorable.
In the "Third-Wave", Fair Trade Organization, certified organic, shade grown, bird friendly, biodynamic, all have amazing standards for quality and safety. Sometimes though, these are just buzz words for marketers. True third-wave coffee supporters, they are not trying to create or jump on a bandwagon. These practices of cultivating coffee responsibly are at the heart and soul of everyone who wants to see responsibility flourish in the supply chain.
Unfortunately with certifications, comes expense and corruption. There are those out there that will take advantage of those with very little. And, for a farmer who has always grown their crop responsibly, because they know no other way to do it, to pay for a certification because it is fashionable in the coffee world, can be very unreasonable. It means less money for his family, less money for electricity, less money for the equipment and tools to get the job done. In some ways the quality of the product grown may suffer for the want of certifications.
Direct-trade is one way of providing for the farmer what they so richly deserve. When we enjoy a really good cup of coffee, we are celebrating with a farmer who has spent months caring for the coffee cherries. The closer a roaster can get to the producer, the more transparency for you, the consumer, will know where your product is coming from. And, you can be reassured that funding is also transparent.
The farmer is not the only person in the coffee production supply chain. The packaging, warehousing, shipping, distributors, carriers, brokers, the world market, on and on, are all being evaluated and scrutinized for best practices.
More and more frequently, the larger distributors of specialty coffee are taking the time to know where their green coffee is sourced from and that buying practices are fair across the supply chain. Coffee is grown in very remote, turbulent, war-torn, politically corrupted, socially depressed, countries. I will be honest, I have very limited experience about this. But, I am learning and want to know more and do right by those that handle coffee.
Victor and Jorge and there brother Alfredo, are 6th generation of farmers in Ataco, Ahuachapan El Salvador. The Mena family are a beautiful people. The short time that I have been able to speak with these two brothers, I can see the love and commitment they have to their family and farm. In 2009, they won the ACE Cup of Excellence award. There coffee is almost as amazing as they are as people. This close relationship we have and further developing, ties directly to you, a wonderful cup of coffee with beautiful transparency.
Something, is driving them to perfection.
Next time...in part 3