Is Third Wave Coffee Really Better?

For generations Brazil exported its finest coffee and sold coffee mixed with things like corn meal locally. Now Brazil has coffee shops for the coffee connoisseur. The same thing, it turns out, is happening in Guatemala the Central American producer of Arabica coffees. Although Guatemala started planting some Robusta at lower altitudes due to leaf rust the country is still primarily a high quality Arabica coffee producer. And now locals are enjoying coffee house scene with their own high quality coffees. The New York Times reports that the hot new thing in Guatemala is coffee.

Guatemala is no longer just exporting coffee. It is also home to an expanding community of coffee shops where baristas point out the peach and raisin notes in the daily special and tasting classes (“cupping,” to the initiated) are scheduled each Saturday.

“The community will grow,” predicted Raúl Rodas, the 2012 world barista champion, who has his own coffee shop and distributor, Paradigma, in the city’s trendy Zone 4.

“We need more producers, more consumers, more coffee houses,” Mr. Rodas said over coffee at a competitor, El Injerto, where he greeted the baristas by name and explained how to identify the hint of a cocoa powder flavor with the finish of each sip.

This is third wave coffee where baristas can tell their clients which farm in which coffee growing area their coffee came from, if it is regular or healthy organic coffee and provide classes in coffee roasting, tasting and sourcing. But is third wave coffee really better and if it is does it justify the price? A college friend of mine said that when he got his first job he moved on from $3 a bottle wine to $10 a bottle of wine because he could afford it and because he could taste the difference. When he had gotten a couple of promotions he said that he considered moving up to $20 a bottle of wine because he could afford it but noted that he could not really tell the difference. Another Times article, Do I Detect a Hint of Joe, discusses third wave coffee.

THOUGH wine tastings seem to have become less pretentious in recent years, it’s still rare to hear a top varietal compared to Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. But at coffee tastings – known to aficionados as cuppings – there is no prescribed lexicon, and a lot more room for whimsy.

Although most folks at a cupping can detect slight changes in flavor not everyone can.

Kurt Cavanaugh, a first-time cupper who had never tasted coffee before 2006, broke the silence. “Sadly, to me, the Guatemalan tasted like an overdone Starbucks,” said Mr. Cavanaugh, 26, the director of marketing at the Riverside Park Fund.

This is probably a guy who goes for the $10 bottle of wine instead of the $20 bottle. Taste is subjective. If you like a very specific taste you may need to search far and wide to find it and then pay to get it. But, on the other hand if you add a lot of cream and sugar to your coffee you are masking the “hints of curry and cheddar” or the “basil and jasmine” so there is little point in going with third wave coffee.

But, if you would like your own source of unique coffee from the hills of Colombia contact us today. We can arrange for shipment of small quantities or roasted or green coffee as well as shipping containers full of green beans from the Colombian coffee growing axis, the Eje Cafetero.

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