An exciting sense of the new has abounded in the story of third wave/specialty coffee over the past 15 years or so. Naturally, fields of specialism are born from a reaction to the status quo. So many established traditions have been challenged and questioned, so many myths and fallacies of coffee have been overturned. The colour and persistency of crema is no longer seen as vital to the success of an espresso. A single origin espresso is not the recompense of a nutter who doesn’t get the balance and complexity of traditional blended espresso. The obsession with the pressure of a tamp has finally been sidelined and replaced with concern of dose weight and grind size as the keeper of flow rate. Much coffee mysticism has happily been left at the wayside.
With 2013 sprawling out in front of us, it seems fitting to take a moment to look at the coming future of specialty coffee. I see speciality coffees’ tale taking place in the settling dust that the whirlwind of development and perception breaking has left. Something more timeless has formed amongst the kafuffle - a structure for speciality coffee. Something that will evolve, twist and develop more slowly and measurably. It is time to not so desperately seek the latest fad in coffee or the newest secret, but to continue to expand and support the strong transparent identity that has been formed.
This story of change is clearly displayed in the development of competition routines. There has previously been recollection of who was the first competitor to present a certain idea, whether it was to use music in a specific way or to present drinks in a certain order, or to challenge rules in a certain way. I feel the future of competition will not contain these same “goal post” changers but will display a more subtle exploration focusing on taste, provenance and the drinkers involvement in the story.
It is clearer now, more than ever that future developments will help to secure and aid a rather simple singular idea - taste and provenance of flavor. Ideas of blends have become sidelined, the cocktail nature of signature drinks has diminished and are only seen as valuable if the synergy of flavour continues to aid the display of character and provenance. Within this simplicity there is still abounding complexity to amaze us all.
An eagerness to explore new horizons has revealed much. Brewing methods that had been forgotten have come back to life and are joined by new and exciting technology. Some will stay with us whilst others will prove not to be of use, as they do not best achieve the very goal upon which they were conceived – which is to utilize and display flavour.
The methods and the drink names will all take a back seat in speciality coffees future as flavour and provenance continue to shine ever more brightly.
Happy New Year Coffee!