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What's The Deal With The 'Fifth Wave'?

Oh man, the coffee industry is rapidly increasing every single day at a lightening speed, and it seems like hardly anyone can keep up. That includes myself, and it was only the other day that I first heard of the term 'fifth wave' coffee, so I thought some of you guys may be in the same boat.

More famously known, the 'third wave' of coffee was the introduction of speciality coffee onto the mass market. The third wave of coffee seemed to happen from 2011 onwards, which created a snowball effect where more nad more small speciality (independent) coffee shops began to open up on every corner.

One of the joys of the coffee industry is the spectrum of people you meet. There's so many different people involved in the industry, ranging from single mums to fresh out of university graduates, all the way over to ex-businessmen and bankers.

Therefore, it doesn't seem completely out of the question for these businessmen to, well, make a successful and expanding business out of the third wave.

Now, truth be told, not all of the potential 'fifth wave' coffee shops are owned by businessmen, but there seems to be a heavy influence towards certain individuals within these companies which does point to a more corporate background. Which leads me to the concept of the emergence of the 'fifth wave'.

The fifth wave is the emergence of a 'micro-chain', or number of establishments, under the same speciality coffee name. In London, these are the likes of Notes Coffee, Grind, and Department of Coffee and Social Affairs to name a few. These guys have encapsulated the idea of having a 'speciality' coffee shop, but removed the 'independent' part. And to be honest, this is quite interesting.

These fifth wave coffee shops are appealing to the mass market. What was before quite exclusive, these big guys of coffee have managed to pp up in numerous occasions, offering the best of both worlds: convenience and quality. This is something the chains are actually lacking in, and to be honest I don't even think they're hitting the nail on the head of either of them most of the time! These small microchains achieving both is a dramatic step in the development of the speciality coffee industry.

However, some people aren't as open towards the idea of speciality microchains. I for one argue that it's actually much harder than what it may first be seemed. These guys are tryig to balance the idea of being speciality, a notion which usually coincides with the familiarity of your local independent, and instead are introducing themselves into the mass market. What could easily happen are these smaller customers could get lost in the process, the ones who truly care about the coffee, and instead turn to another canteen-style-starbucks where there's minimal personality and emotional contact between Barista and customer. Not to mention their coffee quality and taste could have dropped dramatically.

No one is exactly quite sure where this will be heading. Why? Well, I don't know whether consumers will openly accept the idea of a 'fifth wave' of coffee. The third wave came about with two things - the personalisation of coffee, as well as the higher coffee. Many people, like myself, would actually skimp on the exceptional quality of the coffee as long as you had that homely comfortable feeling you receive in independent shops than the chains. (However, obviously, I don't ignore the taste of the coffee entirely - I wouldn't visit somewhere with horrendous coffee - no thank you). Therefore, it's going to be really interesting to keep an eye on the development of these as they expand over London (and beyond)!

What are your thoughts on the emergence of the 'fifth wave' and where do you think its direction will be? Drop me a message and tell me what you're thinking!

Until next time, lovelies. x

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