We talk about different periods of activity in coffee as waves, and numerous publications seem to believe the fourth wave is here. But is it?
Clearly the 4th wave is “burgers”
4th wave is home roasting?!
I can certainly attest to the need for specialty coffee to promote itself within their own countries and communities of origin, although I wouldn't say that necessarily constitutes the fourth wave, whatever that may turn out to actually mean.
I live in the Philippines which isn't too high in standing as an origin, but we definitely have specialty coffee production. Unfortunately, the situation is that specialty coffee is nowhere near as well-established here as it is in developed countries. The past attempt within the country to revive the popularity of our historically-grown local libericas succeeded in saving the crop. But instead of evolving into better farming practices, special processing methods, and delicate roasting for origin characteristics, it turned into a commercialized burnt-roasted nightmare. Actual locally-grown specialty arabicas, in turn, remain completely overshadowed and even derrided as tasting bad, just because it eschews the rubbery acetone bitterness of burnt libericas.
This kind of 'backlash' against specialty coffee as supposedly pretentious is, as you pointed out, not a new wave. But to me, that's just telling us that the third wave hasn't quite succeeded yet. Coffee is always going to be an export/import commodity because coffee does not grow everywhere in the world. Keeping the value of specialty coffee within producing countries can only go so far, as a goal for the industry. The real failing is that not enough people, the world over, understand yet that coffee is supposed to be more than that cup of liquid bitterness that people bombard with sugar to even taste bearable.
The values of the so-called first and second waves are pretty much ubiquitous by now. Commercial coffees and Starbucks are everywhere. The third wave as we know it can't be claimed as having passed when its values are nowhere near as broadly accepted. Hence, the third wave still has a long way to go.
Whatever the 4th wave is, it has already happened! But, what really is 3rd wave? I remember standing in line at the Blue Bottle at the Ferry Building in SF 2010 and the taste I still can remember to this day! That is 3rd wave! My perception of what coffee can taste like was shaken to the core that day and I have been addicted ever since! I have no problem driving 50 miles for an incredible latte today. That is life changing! I’m still looking for the 4th wave. I believe it’s already out there, I just haven’t found it yet!