Third wave coffee is popping up everywhere.
Haven't yet heard of third wave coffee? In case you’re not familiar with it, third wave coffee refers to the movement of producing high-quality, artisanal coffee. The trend, it seems, has really boomed.
Specialty coffee represents 37 percent of U.S. coffee cups and makes up nearly 50 percent value share of $30-$32 billion retail value of the U.S. coffee market. Now that’s a lot of coffee. And let’s face it: The entire nation knows that when it comes to coffee, the Pacific Northwest does it best. With culinary tourism on the rise, it only makes sense that specialty coffee get in on the action — or so thought Lora Woodruff, owner of Portland, Oregon-based Third Wave Coffee Tours.
“Portland has such an amazing coffee scene, and no one was really focusing on it as a tourism opportunity,” says Woodruff. She gives weekly tours showcasing Portland’s java offerings. Tour takers have even come have far as Japan, Uganda and Columbia to learn more about the City of Rose bustling coffee scene.
“We call ourselves the ‘new coffee capital’,” Woodruff says of Portland. “I think people will understand why when they come here. People should drink local. They should look for their local micro-roasters and support that business model. They’re doing right by the farmer and giving you fresh, amazing coffee.”
But no discussion about coffee in the Pacific Northwest would be complete without mentioning Seattle. The birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle is an undeniable player in the coffee world. Yet according to Woodruff, Seattle doesn’t have quite as many artisanal coffee makers as Portland.
“We have more micro-roasters than they do,” Woodruff says of Portland. “They’re kind of the heart of second wave coffee and some of the other cafes that really introduced America to espresso drinks. They’ve continued to evolve, but I think Portland has always been an artisan haven. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s somebody pursuing it passionately here.”
Back in May, I joined Woodruff and a few others on a tour of downtown Portland’s cafes. I appreciated each shop for its brewing techniques, diverse settings, and of course, coffee.
At Case Study Coffee, we sampled coffee brewed using Hario and Chemex (some of the best stuff out there) equipment to see the difference between each drink, depending on the brew method. As a huge espresso fan, I found it fascinating to see the vast difference between the way each cup of black coffee tasted.
This adorable red food truck pours one smooth and rich mocha that I highly recommend. Plus, you must visit a food truck when you’re in the city as they're quite popular. It’s also worth noting that this business employs a “suspended coffee” program to give back to the community. A costumer can buy a coffee for someone else—what they purchase gets put on a chalkboard hanging from the truck—and another person can claim one item, per day.
Teresa Tobat is a writer and editor based out of the Washington, D.C. area. View her website at teresaktobat.com. Follow her tweets @ttobat88.