Artisanal coffee, sometimes called “third wave,” continues to rock the coffee scene across the country. Rhode Island is no exception. But here at Cooper’s Cask Coffee you can find carefully selected single-origin beans paired with the subtle, sweet notes of award winning whiskeys from Sons of Liberty Spirits, another Rhode Island specialty.
Named for coopers—the craftsmen who for centuries have built wooden, barrel-shaped casks—Cooper’s Cask Coffee ages unroasted beans in barrels previously used for producing whiskey and rum. Master roasters, Jason Maranhao and John Speights, then roast the beans in small, boutique batches, packaging them in pouches specially designed to exude the alluring aromas.
As you sip, you might find yourself wanting to learn more about “third wave” coffee. At least that’s what happened to me.
Trish Rothgeb of the Coffee Quality Institute and Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters christened artisan brews “third wave” coffee in 2002 in an article in The Flamekeeper, the newsletter of the Roaster’s Guild. Food writers and coffee connoisseurs alike have adopted the category, but often in reductive terms. They typically equate first wave coffee to Folgers, second wave to Starbucks, and third wave coffee to something like Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
But this linear evolution and set of characteristics are not what Rothgeb (formerly Speie) described. Like any good scholar of culture would, she argued, “The waves overlap; and one inevitably spills over to influence the next.” The “waves” are both additive and reactionary. For example, Rothegeb asserts that artisanal coffee is beholden to first wave coffee’s innovations in packaging and marketing, as well as the considerable coffee-consuming population they ensured. At the same time, “The Third Wave is a reaction to those who want to automate and homogenize Specialty Coffee.” These developments in production, packaging, distribution, marketing, and consumption all define each wave and its philosophy, rather than just a coffee “type.”
Rothgeb was inspired to codify coffee waves based on innovations in the early 2000s coffee scene in Oslo, Norway, where she was living at the time. Her readings in third wave feminism also shaped her thinking, what she called “the concept … that you could be whatever you want to be—that we can build on what we had learned from feminism of the past few decades, and then shed some of the ideas that no longer worked.” It’s from such a revolutionary foundation that Rothgeb defines “third wave.” It’s coffee that eschews hierarchy. It’s coffee that rigorously resists the standards set by mass production methods. It’s coffee that aspires to quality, expertise, service, sustainability, individuality, and a complex, even quirky taste experience.
While the debate rages on whether coffee waves are useful for thinking about cups of joe (like here, here, and here), there should be no debate about Cooper’s Cask Coffee. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the full story and will try a taste sometime soon.
Top image credit: Emily Contois, 2016