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Edmonton’s Waves of Coffee

Aug 26, 21 | Adrian Constantin

For many of us, our day starts off right with an energizing cup of coffee. Some would even argue, the world would stop spinning without this fascinating beverage. But do we even know, how this little cup of joy comes to be?

Coffee has a long history. In this article we want to dive into a part of this history, and with that into the Waves of Coffee. There are three Waves of coffee that shaped the coffee scene in Edmonton and around the world.

A nice cup of coffee can mean different things to different people.
For some, their morning starts off right with a warm cup, freshly poured out of their drip coffee machine at home. They enjoy the delicious smell of dark–roasted coffee spreading through their kitchen and the dark and bold taste of their morning cup.

For others, their brew is a new experience every time. They like to spice up their life with a spiced-up coffee drink. Whether it’s iced or topped with caramel sauce, they like to fit the unique drink to the unique day they have.

And for some, coffee is their hobby. It’s like opening a surprise bag, every time there could be something new in there. A flavor they have never experienced, a different brewing technique or revolutionary coffee science. For them, coffee is a whole new world. A whole new universe to learn about.

And for some coffee might mean something completely different. Or it might mean all of the above. The opportunities are endless, there is no right or wrong. Coffee is as unique as the person who drinks it.

First, Second and Third Wave

All the scenarios mentioned, are different cups of coffee. Some of them we grew up with, some we see as a treat and some not all of us have experienced yet. But one thing every brew has in common is the power to bring people together.

The different cups, beans, and cafés, belong to different Waves. Coffee Waves is a concept that was made to categorize different scenes and shifts in coffee. Starting with commercializing coffee in the First Wave, experimenting with different coffee drinks in the Second Wave, to the unique experience of Specialty Coffee we see and love now in the Third Wave.

First Wave

Imagine a nice cup of dark coffee. You make it in your coffee machine at home every morning. It makes you feel comfortable, it always tastes the same, it gives you a feeling of consistency. These cups of coffee can be put into the First Wave. During the First Wave, coffee became a commodity, rather than the luxury good it was seen as before. It was brought to the masses, sold in grocery stores and was available in diners for a very low price. Although generally speaking the First Wave has come to an end, the inventions and milestones they have reached are still present today.

First Wave in Edmonton

In Edmonton, the First Wave could be seen in lunch counters downtown where workers would spend their breaks. One of the first cafés was the Silk Hat, which started in 1913 and serving coffee for 94 years. Nowadays First Wave coffee can still be found in grocery stores and in many local diners. A good example when it comes to the First Wave is the Canadian symbol for coffee: Tim Hortons. Still serving millions of Canadians their daily cup of coffee: dark, simple, cheap.

Second Wave

In the Second Wave coffee lovers saw the potential of Italian espresso bars and wanted to introduce this culture to the masses. There was a shift from the local diners to a commercialized coffee experience. Coffee became a sign of status. It could be so much more than just a simple cup. It can be an iced caramel macchiato with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. The Second Wave was all about creating espresso-based signature drinks, a strong brand and making it a lifestyle product.
The best example for this is the vast expansion of Starbucks and its business model.

Second Wave in Edmonton

An example of the Second Wave is Java Jive, a roasting company in Edmonton that started roasting coffee in 1980. It was the end of an era when Java Jive closed its cafés in 2013, with that ending a big part of Edmonton’s Second Wave, opening its doors for a new era to follow: The Third Wave.

Third Wave

If you think of the Third Wave you think of Specialty Coffee. It is a shift away from mass production of coffee and fancy espresso-based drinks, to a unique experience filled with joy and love for the art of coffee. The focus is on origin, flavor profiles and brewing techniques. Coffee is seen as a unique experience, focusing on small communities and locally owned businesses. Transparency and fair wages for farmers are part of the core values of the Third Wave. Coffee is a powerful tool to build relationships and connections. The Third Wave is all about the love for coffee, trying to spark it in everyone who is willing to try it.

The Specialty Coffee scene wants to get people as excited about coffee as they are. Coffee is not just a warm cup of dark-roasted aroma. Coffee is an experience, a cup of joy, something that warms your heart and soul.
As it is common for Specialty Coffee roasters to give their beans a lighter roast, there are so many possible flavor profiles and so many different techniques to serve you the best cup of coffee you have ever had. Trust me, it will change the way you taste coffee forever.

Third Wave in Edmonton

There is a strong Third Wave community in Edmonton today. It’s a widespread scene, welcoming everyone into their cafés to try and explore the uniqueness of coffee. Just imagine yourself in a homey, but modern café, a fruity single-origin pour-over in your hand, indulging in the head-spinning aromas.

Transcend is a great example of how the Third Wave moved its way into the coffee culture of Edmonton. They opened their doors in 2006 and with that paved the path for many Specialty cafés to follow. A revolution in Edmonton’s coffee scene began.

Now that we know that Third Wave coffee is a whole new world to explore and taste, what are you waiting for? In Edmonton there is a café for everyone. Your cup can be so much more than just simple, it can be as unique as you are. A cup of coffee can bring you love and joy every time you step into a Specialty Café, you just have to take the first step.

You are more than welcome to experience Edmonton’s diverse coffee scene yourself!



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