Today’s East Bay Express published a good, and long-overdue, cover story on some of the quality coffee changes going on in our fair East Bay: Surfing Coffee’s “Third Wave” | Feature | East Bay Express. Its use of the Third Wave crutch is unfortunate, but also par for the course these days. Meanwhile, we will try to avoid becoming too tiresome (and absurd) by limiting our Third Wave mockery to only one post per week.

Luke Tsai's cover story on today's 'East Bay Express' is on East Bay coffee shopsLuke Tsai’s article was fair and somewhat balanced in its reporting — even if it had to make mention of two of our least favorite (and, IMO, least reliable) Web resources for café reviews: the insufferable gluttons at and the social networking gamers with arbitrary standards at We even made page 3 of the article for our routine Third Wave ridicule. The article touches on one of our Third Wave stereotypes, lighter roasts, and even our defense of coffee Nazis.

The notable cafés and roasters in the article include Local 123 (and their Flying Goat coffee), Remedy Coffee (Ritual Coffee Roasters), SubRosa Coffee (Four Barrel Coffee), Blue Bottle Coffee Co. (for their new Jack London Square roasting facility and café), and Awaken Cafe (Taylor Maid Farms). The article also makes mention of notable pre-Third Wavers, Cole Coffee. A number of these truly are a gaping hole in our current review database.

Mr. Tsai had originally contacted me for this article back in early October. So coincidentally, just yesterday I searched the East Bay Express Web site to see if his article had been published yet (it hadn’t). However, a search for “third wave” on the site did amusingly produce articles mentioning third-wave ska, third-wave environmentalism, and third-wave feminists.

UPDATE: Dec 23, 2009
A regular coffee column in the Seattle Times picked up this story yesterday: Coffee City | How seriously should people take their coffee? | Seattle Times Newspaper. Interestingly, the author, Melissa Allison, took upon defining “third wave coffee” this way:

A term coined around 2002 that aims to define an evolved coffee scene in which baristas, roasters and farmers know each other and are connoisseurs of a product to which they’re all passionately connected.

If you go back to our post from April 2006, our debate in the comments with Nick Cho was about how the term “Third Wave” may have been originally conceived about “letting the coffee speak for itself,” or enjoying coffee for coffee’s sake, but the phrase has since been completely co-opted for marketing purposes. That is: what started with more of a consumer-focused perspective was redefined for the convenience of business-focused uses — i.e., uses by baristas, roasters, and farmers.

Note that there is no mention of the coffee consumer in Ms. Allison’s definition above.