The Rise of Third Wave Coffee

WORDS & PHOTOS BY: ARIANA SAWYER

The last few years have seen the arrival of a new and as yet-underrated type of small business. More common in places such as New York City and Seattle, third wave coffee shops have been popping up all over Long Beach.

Third wave goes beyond Starbucks and Peets, beyond dirty, cluttered corner cafes with LaVazza and dark oily beans, to fragrant, light roasted, single origin varietals. Sound snobby? Well, that’s because you haven’t tried it yet.

Third wave is about appreciating specialty coffee like one would a fine wine or other culinary specialty except it still only costs a few dollars.

As one of the largest cash crops in the world, coffee consumption is on the rise, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. But among millennials, so is sustainable living and a love for reinvention. Third wave coffee is not just about the treatment of the coffee bean, it’s about reinventing the way roasters do business with farmers and traders on a global scale.

Normally, third world countries depend on coffee as a main export, forced by core countries like the U.S. to compete to offer the lowest possible price to traders. The traders work together to keep the value of the beans low and then sell as high as the market can bare back in the States. Coffee farmers have to accept these low prices or else risk being dropped and making no money at all.

Stephanie Ferris, the manager of Rose Park Roasters and a former Peets employee, said that the “conscientious consumer rhetoric” of second-wave shops that brag of Fair Trade practices doesn’t really mean anything when they are willing to drop any farm if the quality isn’t up to par.

“When you’re working with specialty coffee, you’re already using smaller farms,” Ferris said. “You’re not just dropping people. It’s not like this farmer has been doing so much work for this one business and if that one business doesn’t pull through, he’s lost his entire crop.”

Direct trade allows the farmer to make more money, which means he or she can pay the workers more. It also drives the price of coffee up a little higher — Rose Park pays two to five times the Fair Trade standard — but it’s worth it when the beans are roasted locally and the caffeine content tends to be a lot higher.

It is a common misconception that the darker the bean, the stronger the caffeine. In fact, dark roasted beans are essentially burnt, destroying the true flavor, caffeine content and nutritionally beneficial antioxidants. Light-roasted beans require greater skill, but the end product is something uniquely delicious every time. Both Rose Park on Fourth Street and Obispo Avenue and Lord Windsor Roasters on Third Street and Cerritos both practice microroasting or the fresh roasting of beans.

The owners of Rose Park, Nathan Tourtellotte and Andrew Phillip, had six years of experience before they opened their own cafe where Roasted Notz used to be. They kept Ferris on as an employee, and a little over two years later, she is still there.

Farris said being a third wave cafe means working together with other local cafes.

“It’s more about everyone working together in the community,” Ferris said. “There’s not just one way to do coffee; there’s so many different ways to do coffee. Instead of this competition, it’s businesses — especially people making coffee — realizing that they’re doing it together and wanting to support each other and wanting to get the best cup of coffee out of it.”

In the next six months, Rose Park is looking to supply their customers with bags of coffee that come from a women-ran collective in Africa.

Other third wave coffee shops in Long Beach include 6-month-old Recreational on Long Beach Boulevard and Third Street and kickstarters Good Hood, Wide Eyes Open Palms and Black Ring Coffee.