From its simple beginnings in the diners and the homes of the 1940s, to its gradual decline in popularity from the early 1960s to the 1980s, to its reimagining and resurgence into the new millennium, coffee has undergone a tumultuous and fascinating American journey. What was once strictly a utilitarian beverage or social lubricant has transformed into ubiquitous, cutting-edge and artisan.
Today’s coffee drinker is fortunate to live in a “golden age of coffee”—new cultivation methods and extraction techniques has resulted in a café scene that produces a better, richer cup of coffee than ever before. And if you have bought one from a shop that uses buzzwords like “shade grown” or “fair trade,” you’ve taken part in Third Wave Coffee. It’s the current movement among specialty coffee drinkers that treats coffee and its processes with the same reverence as an artisan or craft beverage, much like fine wine or craft beer.
Invention And History
The Chemex, invented in 1941, was arguably the first coffeemaker to emphasize form alongside function. Created by chemist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, it was intended to be a work of art as well as an effective tool. (He referred to them as “Beautilities.”) Schlumbohm wanted to reimagine the perfect cup of coffee—to strip this basic act down to its very essentials and reshape it from the ground up—and this began with design.
While it might look simple, not just anyone can make a killer latté—it requires training, patience and craftsmanship. And executing a successful pour-over coffee is an exercise in patience and technique. And that’s where a modern education as a barista comes in. Today’s coffee culture has created a market for high-quality, labor-intensive coffee-making ability. While landing a job in a café was once as simple as filling out an application and a good smile, employment as a barista is now a respected, full-time profession.
It’s safe to say that coffee—the world’s most popular beverage—has its share of fans. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the popularity of the coffee festival has grown to the point that many cities (New York, London, Tokyo, Istanbul and St. Petersburg to name a few) now host their own distinctive coffee festival. Predictably, many of these events claim to hold the honor of “world’s biggest coffee festival.”