The difference between American and European coffee
Anyone that knows me even remotely well knows that I love coffee. Good coffee. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to try coffee around the world as I travel as GoDaddy’s first full-time evangelist. And let me tell you, I’ve had coffee in some interesting places. From Bulgaria to Amsterdam and California to Maine, I prefer to support local cafes and coffeeshops when possible.
It was striking the first time I landed in Europe around a year ago. I knew espresso was ubiquitous, sure— but I thought that there’d be a little more American coffee influence than there was. Cafés, hotels, and restaurants pass pushbutton cappuccinos and lattes off as the real deal, and anywhere else you’ll find mostly generic espresso, expertly pulled by people who’ve only known espresso drinks their entire life. Make no mistake, I’ve had some damn good cappuccinos in Europe (and appreciate the art of making a fine espresso drink), but I always long for a smooth cup of filter brewed coffee when I find myself in Europe. Espresso is great, but it doesn’t excite my taste buds the way a good cup of thoughtfully sourced, expertly roasted, and delicately brewed joe does. Good black coffee to me, is like a fine bottle of wine is to a sommelier.
What is third wave coffee?
The third wave of coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity. This involves improvements at all stages of production, from improving coffee plant growing, harvesting, and processing, to stronger relationships between coffee growers, traders, and roasters, to higher quality and fresh roasting, at times called “microroasting” (by analogy with microbrewbeer), to skilled brewing.
Third wave coffee aspires to the highest form of culinary appreciation of coffee, so that one may appreciate subtleties of flavor, varietal, and growing region – similar to other complex consumable plant-derived products such as wine, tea, chocolate, and cannabis. Distinctive features of third wave coffee include direct trade coffee, high-quality beans (see specialty coffee for scale), single-origin coffee (as opposed to blends), lighter roasts, and latte art. It also includes revivals of alternative methods of coffee preparation, such as vacuum coffee and pour-over brewing devices such as the Chemex and Hario V60. –Wikipedia
Third wave coffee is coming to Europe
I originally thought that Europeans must be resistant to the American third wave coffee movement. It’s so common to see brewed coffee like this in the US now, I hadn’t even heard the words “third wave coffee” until I spent some time chatting with a European café owner. Until then, I had heard American coffee described by Europeans as weak and watered down.
As it turns out, American craft coffee influence isn’t actively shunned in Europe, it just hasn’t left much of a lasting impression, until now. On a recent trip to The Netherlands for work, I discovered a growing passion for American-style (filter brewed) single-origin coffee— roasted, bagged, and brewed in Amsterdam. I worked out of 5-6 packed coffee shops while I was there, and it was a blast working alongside the rhythmic sound of beans turning over in the roaster. Chemex, v60, and other filter brewing methods are becoming so popular, some shops I visited weren’t able to keep beans on the shelf long enough to satisfy local demand— others were already talking about expanding operations.
I wonder what the third wave coffee scene is like on other continents. There are some awesome roasters ramping up operations in Europe. Take a look at the third wave coffeeshops I visited in Amsterdam (a few reviewed, more to come), or take a gander at all my third wave coffee reviews.