The third coffee revolution is a market milestone focused on the production and consumption of high quality coffee, giving it a gourmet and exclusive connotation, and stripping it of its “commodity” stigma. From the point of view of supply, the incorporation in the third coffee revolution involves substantial improvements (better control) along the entire value chain: agronomic practices, harvesting and processing, close relationships with producers, buyers and roasters, in addition to recent roasting and high quality paired with infusion methods that enhance the distinctive characteristics of each grain, cleanly and consistently. From the point of view of demand, we have a consumer willing to pay for a sensory experience, for knowing the history behind each coffee and for understanding the process of transforming the grain from the farm to the cup; also demanding sustainable practices as common denominator throughout the entire value chain. One of the most characteristic features (and from our perspective, positive) of this third revolution is a greater closeness between the primary producer and the final consumer, and some key words related to the movement include specialty coffee, individualization, baristas, micro-lots and micro-benefits, sophistication, cup complexity, direct trade and sustainability.
It is likely that for this moment you are wondering what the first two revolutions of coffee were, and then of course we are going to refer briefly to them. Although there is a diversity of criteria on the historical period in which it can be said that the First Coffee Revolution began, the truth of the matter is that the definition of coffee refers to the massive consumption and commercialization of coffee among the general public, The objective of the offer was the availability of coffee at each table in each household and perhaps, the main motivator of the consumer was the stimulating effect of caffeine over the sensory properties of the drink. The Second Revolution is defined by the appearance of establishments specializing in coffee and preparations derived from coffee, clearly exemplified by large companies now franchised throughout the world. It is said that it began between the 70s and 80s, with the aim of offering coffee to enjoy (Lattes, preparations based on espresso and flavored drinks) and begins to exploit the concept of origins and consequently, the consumer begins to establish preferences for these preparations.
It is worth asking what economic, social and environmental implications are involved in this third revolution. One of the most obvious features is the value creation along the supply chain: the final consumer is willing to pay more for a product to which he attributes a higher perceived value since it is accompanied by a package of information that transforms the consumption experience. The roaster must offer a sufficiently attractive price to the buyer so that he can identify and find the cup profile of his preference, while the buyer must offer such a price to the producer that justifies and creates incentives for the additional investments required in terms of inputs, labor and infrastructure and traceability. While it is true that the whole crop of a producer cannot always be marketed in these segments, the important point is rather that there is a way to differentiate and add value to the segment of the crop that shows exceptional attributes. From the social perspective, the creation of value along the chain results in positive externalities in the coffee producing regions, the communities tend to be more prosperous and mainly because a higher need for labor is generated, as well as a whole culture and identity around coffee. Similarly, the environmental perspective demonstrates a positive outlook, the consumer demands that the considerations of waste management, water management, rational use of agrochemicals and management of biodiversity are inherent to the connotation of product a specialty/gourmet product.
The Third Coffee Revolution has caused important changes in the traditional structure of the world coffee industry. Alternative value chains have been developed (usually more direct or straightforward, with the inherent loss of importance of intermediaries), micro-mills and micro-roasters have proliferated, and there is a greater demand from producers on issues of cupping and knowledge of the cup profile of their own coffee. In Costa Rica, a growth of 120% in the number of coffee milling centers over the last 15 years (on average a new benefit every 2 months) is a clear example of these changes, along with the growing popularity of the Cup of Excellence event in the country.
This market milestone certainly involves challenges for small coffee producers, who usually show some resistance and even fear in joining alternative value chains to which they have traditionally ventured. Agronomic and post-harvest management practices focused on quality, use of information and communication technologies, knowledge of a second language for more direct communications with buyers and (un) knowledge of the sensory attributes of their coffee to enhance their branding are some of the major challenges that must be considered to ensure their competitiveness and obtain the benefits derived from a market segment that shows promising perspectives.
What are the perspectives for seals or certifications in this new era of the coffee market? Are they also demanded from these “connoisseurs” consumers or take these consumers take for granted many of the things that communicate certifications? Do information and communication technologies along with social networks displace the communication role of the certifications? Do they lose significance in this Third Revolution? – These are some of the questions that we leave to your consideration and that we will address in a forthcoming entry of our Blog.