From the latest issue of Sunset Magazine, the West Coast feel good rag, Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold talks about why he hates Third Wave Coffee:

Do we applaud fair-trade, sustainable farmed, shade-grown joe? Sure. Why not? But when we sit down to a cup of coffee in the morning, we are not particularly interested in the blueberry, caramel, or tomato soup nuances a dedicated roaster can coax out of a bean, nor in the intricate ballet of the four-minute pour-over or the Eva Solo flagon. We want coffee that tastes like coffee, and we want it now.

Trish Rothgeb, credited for coining the phrase “third wave coffee”, responds via Facebook:

Dear Sunset Magazine,

While I would rather it weren’t on Jonathan Gold’s list of the food trends he hates, I wanted to thank him for mentioning Third Wave Coffee in your July 2011 issue. I first wrote about this idea in 2003, (in The Flamekeeper, a newsletter for the Roasters Guild – a trade guild of the Specialty Coffee Association of America) and it has been interesting to see the term expanded upon, misunderstood, heralded, and applied in all manner of ways since.

Mr. Gold and I agree that coffee descriptions can miss when purveyors choose to wax on and on, but consider cutting us a little slack. Our sector of the coffee market is fairly young compared to cheese or wine. Our trade is in the pioneering stages of really making a case for quality and the price tag we need to attach to it. We are earnestly, and often awkwardly, working on that message.

Many in my own industry are as annoyed with the new breed of baristas, (with all their gear and words) as they are with me for inventing a term for it.  You can rest assured that there remain plenty of cafes happy to serve you a fast and honest cup without the pretense. Still, we won’t stop trying to win you over.


Trish Rothgeb

Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters

Redwood City, CA

Nick Cho’s man-on-the-street video, James Hoffmann’s speech on customer empathy and now this letter. This is 2011, the third wave has brought us great quality coffee, is the fourth wave about making the third wave of coffee marketable?

(Originally published on Facebook, republished with permission.)