Coffee Trends: Spring 2014
By Brian Martell
The religion of coffee - It would be wise to pay attention to the aspects of the brewer
By Brian Martell
A lot of people take their coffee seriously – really seriously.
A lot of people take their coffee seriously – really seriously. Websites dedicated to coffee lovers through their blogs and musings abound, and we in the industry sometimes don’t pay as much attention to them as we should. What comes as a revelation through these sites is the sheer number of people not in our industry who are interested in or keenly obsessed with coffee.
Foodies have been around for as long as humans have been cooking. In recent decades they have taken it to a whole new stratum. We now have those who are not just foodies, but foodies who specialize in very specific types of foods. These are not all food professionals, but rather your average civilians who are keenly interested (read obsessed) with a specific subcategory of food or beverage that seems to hit that resonating note with them. I can’t help but wonder if this is coffee “hipsterism” or sincere devotion to coffee and the quest for coffee perfection. This subculture draws from many facets of society and transcends class, from the apolitical “I just want a really great cup of coffee” to the anarchist looking to start the next revolution.
Trying to figure out what makes the coffee aficionado tick calls a few theories to mind. As with all movements, there are varying degrees of devotion. Some are just looking to improve their morning experience through better coffee or better brewing. And others at the other end of the spectrum are the horticulturalists, artists and scientists who are fanatical about controlling the whole process themselves (that is, they roast their own, have a coffee notebook, meticulously vacuum-seal unused coffee, have lab-quality thermometers . . . you get the picture).
One of my buddies, Tim the aviation engineer, recently commented on what he read to be the best way to prepare French Press coffee. He knew I was in the industry and he was asking for validation. What caught my attention was how interested he was in getting his morning coffee just right and the lengths he was willing to go to do so. Tim is earnest and, as an engineer, followed a logical pattern in his questioning. We spoke of the Continuum to Contentment* “the 10 great rules to making a perfect cup of coffee” (there were nine but it was bumped up to 10 about a decade ago), and after considering the process, he said thoughtfully, “Coffee is a bit of a religion, isn’t it?” Smiling, I looked at Tim and said I’d quote him in my next blog posting.
The average Canadian is interested in what it takes to make a great cup of coffee and it’s up to our industry to deliver or risk becoming anachronistic. At the quality apex of our industry resides a movement referred to as the third wave, also known as the evolution of the industry from the large retail coffee offering (Maxwell House, Chase & Sandborn et al.) to the second wave underlined by premium Arabicas started by Starbucks, Pete’s, etc., to the third wave of artisanal roasted coffee usually of single origin with a social component attached to the coffee.
The first-and second-wave coffees are not going away anytime soon (it can be argued the most impactful coffee innovation of the last 20 years, Keurig K-Cups, is firmly entrenched in the first and second wave). What makes the third wave holistic is that it is concerned not only with coffee provenance and roasting but also with the all-important brewing and serving of the coffee. Those who are riding the third wave are, like Tim, interested in more than good coffee coming out of the bag; they investigate the best way to coax those beautiful yet shy and fragile soluble coffee oils out of the grounds and into the cup. They get the fact that wonderfully fresh coffee beans of good parentage, meticulously roasted to perfection and coddled in the best of packaging is only halfway to coffee bliss. The proof of the coffee is in the drinking, and if not brewed correctly there is nothing that can be done to redeem the liqueur once in the cup.
For those of us on the foodservice side of the business, it does not mean we have to start going back to vacuum brewers circa 1950, but it does mean we have to pay attention to the aspects of the brewer that will affect cup quality (temperature, cleanliness, time, etc.). For those in the brewer retail business, it is high time to ride the third wave by bringing out the best of brewing equipment and hopefully taking some of the guesswork out of preparation.
*The Continuum to Contentment is a trademark of the Heritage Coffee Company as well as copyright protected, all rights reserved. For more information, visit www.heritage-coffee.com .
Brian Martell works at Heritage Coffee as vice-president of sales and has 21 years of industry experience. Brian has also been the recipient of three prestigious awards: the Don Storey, the Stuart Daw, and the Albert DeNovelus Customer Service awards. Questions, comments, feedback, start a dialogue? E-mail him at