Millennials have taken food and drinks to the next level, caring mostly about their quality (and yes, sometimes, their looks). Coffee is one of the most consumed brewed drinks worldwide and this new way of enjoying it is gaining supporters. This movement is called "third wave coffee" and these coffee shops offer a more conscious and gourmet way of consuming your favorite drink. 

I talked to my good Greek friend Georgios (from now on: George) about his job as a coffee roaster in a third wave coffee shop located in London. He studied accountancy and finance back in Athens, but after moving to London 5 years ago, he decided that wasn't the path he wanted to follow. 

coffee, beer, pizza, tea
Marina Wollmann

Spoon: How did you get into coffee roasting?

George: When I first came to London, I used to work as a barista in specialty coffee shops, and I started to wonder things, like where the coffee beans were coming from, why some coffees tasted different than others, etc. I wanted to get an in-depth knowledge, so I started working in the roaster to understand the supply chain.

I also got my Q Arabica Grader Certification, which only five thousand people have worldwide. 

Spoon: What is your day-to-day work like?

George: My job is to find really good quality coffee and roast it. Every day we have different types of coffee on the table waiting to be evaluated. We try those in the morning; that is called cupping. We hold cuppings to taste our samples and score the coffees for some specific attributes: fragrance, aromas, acidity, body, and balance.

This is done with just the coffee and water, no filters. I also work with the roaster, which is like a big oven where we cook/roast the green beans. The process takes from 9 to 13 minutes and that is how you obtain the well-known coffee beans.

wine, beer
Marina Wollmann

Spoon: What is the key to understanding Third Wave Coffee Shops?

George: It is mainly improving the quality of the coffee, taking into account the whole supply chain process. We buy the green coffee beans straight from farmers. In an ideal and working system this makes the trading conditions better for them.

We buy from various farms and regions around the world such as Central and South America, like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru; Eastern Africa, like Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda and also from Eastern Asia, Indonesia and Sumatra. 

I like to see and try to promote real fair-trade conditions that benefit workers and also give the best quality possible to our customers. For the most part, I think it should be a win-win situation. We have two farmers in our director's board so that makes the company I work for one of the more fair I know. To date they have reinvested over 50% of their profits

Author's note: Although the idea behind fair-trade is well intentioned, this doesn't work as you would expect. If you are interested in learning more about this, here are some pro and con articles to help you to make up your mind on the matter. Also, there is another method that seems to truly be more ¨fair¨ for the growers. Learn more about direct-trade here.

Spoon: What's the deal with the Q Grader Certification? 

George: The program certifies that you are capable of identifying the quality of coffee objectively, following certain established parameters that have to do with the taste. It is the only certification in the industry that is based on the quality of the product.

The process involves a series of 20 exams over a period of 5 days. It is really intense and your senses need to be sharp to be able to pass. It includes dark rooms, timed tests, sensory, cupping, and olfactory skills, and many others. It is a really cool option for people who want to become true coffee experts.

This business is growing, people want to know what they're drinking and they demand better quality. 

Spoon: How do you like your coffee? 

George: I'm pretty classic, I use a brewing method called V60, and take it black. 

Whether you like your coffee black, cappuccino, decaf, americano, turkish, with matcha or any of the other ways that exist, it is undeniable that the 30 billion dollars industry (and that's only in the US) will only grow and develop throughout the upcoming years.

Step up your coffee game and try out some of the Third Wave Coffee Shops that have likely come to your town recently. Don't forget to do a little research on their workers conditions and relationship with growers...I mean, who wants to drink coffee that comes from poorly paid growers in developing countries if it can be done better?