The Coffee Revolution: An Insight into the Three Waves of Coffee

The Coffee Revolution: An Insight into the Three Waves of Coffee

Although the first coffee bean made its way to India in the 1600s, there is a fresh new wave of coffee culture brewing. In many parts fuelled by the pandemic-induced lockdowns, coffee lovers started exploring more than the run-of-the-mill instant coffee.

This fondness for freshly roasted specialty coffee has given rise to the third wave of coffee in India. So, what are the waves of coffee and which wave are we in?

In this article, let's explore the fascinating transformation of coffee in India - starting the first wave to a detailed look at the third wave while we add a stop at the second.


The First Wave Coffee – The Inception 

The chronicles of coffee began in India when the Sufi saint Baba Budan planted coffee seeds in Baba Budangiris in Karnataka. According to legend, he stole seven seeds from the city of Mocha and planted them in his backyard.

For a long time, the plants were only an attraction in Baba Budan’s garden. In the 18th Century, British Businessmen established coffee plantations and commercialised the coffee plants. They also introduced modern processing techniques to improve production.

This wave made coffee an easily consumable product and was sold in retail stores. The beans were roasted and sold both in the form of whole beans and ground coffee.

During this time, Indian coffee earned recognition for its quality and taste. As a result, there was a spike in exports to several European countries.


The Second Wave  - Quantity to Quality

The second wave of coffee in India coincides with the global specialty coffee movement. This began when coffee consumers wanted more than commercialised coffee. Here, the importance shifted from quantity to quality.

During this period, small-scale farms and estates started to experiment with coffee. It includes cultivating different coffee varieties and processing them via alternative methods. The methods played a huge role in bringing out the flavours inherent to Indian coffee. 

This is also the period where coffee became more of a social beverage. There were cafes and coffee shops popping up across the country. It became a place for people to simply gather for work or casual reasons.

Also, organisations like the Coffee Board of India had a major influence on the growth of Indian coffee domestically as well as internationally.


The Third Wave - An Appreciation for the Artistry

The third wave coffee movement started in India in the 2010s. We are currently progressing in this wave at a fast pace.

This movement is all about appreciating the nuances of coffee and understanding what goes on behind the scenes. So, there is a focus on its origin, an emphasis on overall education about coffee and its freshness. Coffee lovers have taken to home-brewing specialty coffee to appreciate the flavours making the movement bigger than ever.

As a result, artisanal roasters have emerged across the country. They work meticulously to source coffee beans from micro-lots and estates. Then, they roast the coffee beans to bring out their unique flavours and provide detailed information about the coffee's journey.

In addition to roasters, planters and baristas also play a huge role in this wave of coffee revolution. Planters pay keen attention to the environment conditions that directly impacts how the final cup tastes like. Baristas, on the other hand, bridge the knowledge gap between the consumer and the roasters. They actively engage with customers, educating them about the coffee's origins, flavour notes, and brewing methods. 

Also, they often work closely with roasters to help improve the quality and taste of the beans. They may participate in cupping sessions to assist in selecting beans. 

Another part of this movement is the emergence of cafes that prioritises traceability, community and education on coffee. Largely because of the unique coffee experience centre, a place to gather and expertise in the field, Something's Brewing has carved out a unique niche for itself in this space. The centre houses a wide range of brewing equipment and coffee from some of the finest coffee roasters in the country.


The Importance of the Third Wave of Coffee

The third wave of coffee is important for several reasons. Majorly, it has brought changes in the traditional structures of the coffee industry in India as well as overseas. There has been a rise in alternative value chains in production including direct trade with farmers, sustainable practices and the proliferation of micro-lots and micro-roasters. 

To sum it up, coffee in the third wave movement is approached with a lens of education, experience and environment rather than just a beverage. 


Parting Words

From the first seven seeds, the colonial commercialization to today’s increasing appreciation of coffee flavours. All three waves of coffee in India have contributed to the coffee experience we are enjoying today.

While there is a wide consensus on the three waves of coffee, the fourth wave of coffee is still ahead of us. It will be shaped by various factors such as global coffee movements, environmental considerations and of course, the preference of coffee lovers. What do you think the future holds for the coffee community in India?


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