So who exactly are these third-wave coffee lovers, coffee geeks, coffee aficionados or indeed coffee snobs, as they have come to be known? They are bobos (bourgeois-bohème) and hipsters. Bearded, with tortoiseshell glasses, faded mustard trousers with careful turn-ups, and body-hugging t-shirts, they busily tap lines of code into their MacBook Air. Or so the cliché goes. This may be true in the independent coffee shops of San Francisco, helped by the proximity of Silicon Valley, but it is less accurate for the rest of the world. Instead, Mandabatmaz, in Istanbul, attracts a clientele of young intellectuals who debate politics and the future of Turkey alongside a coffee prepared in time-honoured fashion (see inset). The Boréal Coffee Shop in Geneva is a haunt for both time-pressed business people and groups of friends hanging out together. Coffee snobs are above all those who appreciate the finer details of coffee drinking. Curious, attentive, demanding, all they want is that every stage in the preparation of the precious elixir is perfect1.
The evolution of coffee culture
Coffee was an elite pleasure for a long period of time. The beverage became democratised with the increase in the number of plantations and the invention of freeze-dried coffee and was soon to be found in every household. This may be considered the first wave in the history of coffee. Coffee culture made its debut in the 1980s, thanks to chains like Starbucks, which brought Italian espresso to the United States. So it was that customers used to ‘dishwater’ coffee were introduced to an entirely different kind of drink. This second wave, which had little impact in Europe, was a real revolution on the other side of the Atlantic. There the tendency was to serve characterless ‘free refill’ coffee prepared in large jugs and kept warm for hours. About fifteen years later, we are in the middle of a third wave. This one is driven by independent coffee shops which are passionate about the details of the production process. Their quest is for a superior quality coffee that offers their clients an exhilarating sensory experience. This new culture of coffee emerged on the west coast of the United States and rapidly built up followers to become a global phenomenon.